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!






Buying My Wedding Dress at David's Bridal

I am not the type of girl who’s dreamed of her wedding dress since childhood. The idea of slipping on a fluffy white confection felt so alien to me and although I think other people look beautiful in their dresses, I just couldn’t fathom wearing one myself. I mean I feel like I’m playing dress up when I wear a suit, and I did that for years, so a big white dress was a very intimidating prospect!

Before I even started dress shopping I had to work really hard to manage my prejudices about wedding dresses, in my mind the vast majority were ugly, lacy, foofy and just not me! On top of that I was a bit stressed out because dresses seemed so expensive (like £1.5k as a starter for 10!) and the idea of stepping in a wedding dress shop terrified me. My first thought was to look for a dress on the high street because it would be more affordable and a more comfortable shopping experience, but honestly nothing I saw felt special enough or particularly ‘me’, so it was time to suck it up, bump up my budget and do some ‘proper’ wedding dress shopping.

Buying My Wedding Dress At David's Bridal - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Talking to people who’ve been there I quickly learnt the trick to wedding dress shopping is to go in with an open mind, try lots of styles out and take things from there. With all this in mind I started pulling together styles I took a liking to on Pinterest (you can follow my board here) and then looking at different designer look books to see if there was anything that I thought would work for me. Initially I dismissed David’s Bridal because I thought it might be a bit cheap and nasty, but when I vented my frustrations about dress shopping loads of people suggested I check it out, if only because there would be lots of different styles to try out - and everyone knows that when it comes to wedding dresses you end up loving something you never thought you’d go for!

I won’t lie. I was terrified of the experience at David’s Bridal. I thought it would be really impersonal, driven by stereotypes and that bell! How wrong was I! Arriving at the store in Westfield Stratford it was actually really reassuring that there were lots of other brides there, it really took the pressure off and seeing how nervous other women looked made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my nerves. After we signed in we were given some time to brows the racks (and racks!) of dresses. There’s no pomp and ceremony, you can touch all the samples, hold them up, feel the fabric and properly explore all the options. Although there’s lots to choose from and lots of brides/friends/family around the spacious studio doesn’t feel crowded, and it was really easy to look at all the dresses on offer without any pressure. The dresses themselves were absolutely beautiful - not at all cheap and nasty - and, much to my delight, actually prices within my original budget. I had a good feeling about this!

Buying My Wedding Dress At David's Bridal - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Once we’d had a look around my lovely consultant Maria took us off to find out more about the wedding, the venue, my style and everything else that would help her help me find a dress I loved. Maria had my number pretty quickly (I think the trainers I presented as my wedding shoes might’ve given the game away!) and really helped put me at ease, telling me all about her barefoot beach wedding, how she’s not into frou frou dresses either and generally reassuring I had the woman I needed on my side.

We started out with a few of the dresses I’d pulled, each time assessing how it looked and felt on and thinking about which elements to keep and what to avoid. Fish tail was out, so were sleeves and much to my surprise so were all the boho styles I thought I’d love! Gradually we chipped away, trying on lots of dresses until Maria pulled out a bit of a wild card. A style that it hadn’t crossed my mind to try, and which turned out to be absolutely perfect. I felt all fizzy and special when Maria helped me in to it, something I honestly didn’t expect to experience. I thought the whole ‘the one’ thing was rubbish when it came to wedding dresses, well it’s not. And I found mine, much to my surprise, in David’s Bridal!

(although I did refuse to ring the bell…not really my scene!)





2018

2018 was a life changing year. I went from working a 9-5 job to being a full time student, a change that I’d been working up to for a couple of years, and one that couldn’t come soon enough. Although this change was a big one, it’s not been the only awesome thing to happen this year, and I think it’s important to remember all the awesome. So here’s my year in review.

A Pretty Place to Play - London Running and Fitness Blog

January

The real highlight of January was our trip to India. Twelve months later and we’re still raving about the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the experiences that we had - seeing the Taj Mahal, touring Delhi, snorkelling, running through the jungle, having a blast at an island Mela, eating at holes in the wall and sleeping at the palatial Imperial Hotel. Just looking back at these posts gives me all the feels, it was a a really special trip.

2018 Year in Review - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

February

London Winter Run is one of my favourite running events, and this year it really lifted me from the shock of returning to the cold dark winter in London! This year I ran with Elle, one of my very favourite people, and it was wonderful. You can read my recap here.

2018 in review - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness blog

March

March was such a nice month. Nothing huge happened but I got to spend time with friends, train for Edinburgh Marathon and generally do things that I enjoy. All while secretly squirrelling away on my PhD proposal and getting ready for the ‘little chat’ (ahem, massive grilling) that stood between me and my goal to study full time! I didn’t write much about it at the time, I didn’t want to jinx things, but it’s probably why this month was a little quieter!

2018 in review - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness blog

April

This month was a biggie when it came to all things academic. Not only did I submit my PhD application, an application for funding and make it through my interview in one piece (sort of), but I also graduated with a Distinction for my MSc AND an award for the best dissertation in Birkbeck’s school of management. It was truly amazing, and I’m so glad Anna was there to take some beautiful pictures.

2018 in Review - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness blog

May

A huge part of 2018 was taken up by marathon training. Hours in the gym and on the road working with coach to get me ready to run 26.2 after a few years out of the game only to have my plans foiled by a chest infection three weeks before the race which saw me DNS. It was a tough one to deal with, although in my heart of hearts I knew it was for the best. I wasn’t in the place I needed to be to respect the distance and it was better that I sat out Edinburgh. My consolation prize however was a lot of fun - running the Edinburgh Marathon Festival 5km, which I think might be my new favourite short run! You can read about it here.

June

So much fun stuff happened in June! We headed out to Ibiza where I explored the island’s trails, Mike DJ’d and we both partied with friends. Ibiza is the most amazing island and hopefully we’ll be back in 2019 because I’m keen to do some more exploring!

I also had the opportunity to visit the French Alps with Quechua to hike and swim with a fantastic group of women. I’d not been hiking in so long and having the opportunity to explore somewhere so beautiful was amazing. I love looking back and my pictures from this trip and remembering how much fun we had! You can catch up on our adventures here.

Ok, so June really was the month of travel, and my final stop was Haarlam, just outside Amsterdam in Holland for the Grachtenloop 10km and a catch up with the other 361 Ambassadors! I love Holland, it’s such a friendly country and it was so lovely to be part of an event that clearly means a lot in Haarlam. We raced, we drank 361 beer and we learnt that chocolate sprinkles are excellent on toast.

2018 year in review - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

July

The adventures continued in July when Mike and I headed to Menorca to snorkel, run and relax by the sea. We are both massive beach people and spend a disproportionate amount of time exploring beaches and drinking gin! You can read about our favourite beaches on the island here.

Back in the UK we found ourselves partying in a field and taking on the Beer Mile Challenge at Love Trails Festival, our new favourite festival! Mike rediscovered his love of running and I realised quite how weak my legs were when it came to hills. Oh and our tent was covered in glitter.

August

August was a bit of a quiet month. There was a lot going on in my personal life as I wrangled with my first major mental health crisis in a long time while also managing a tricky relationship with a former tenant and planning how I was going to handover the job I’d been doing for a number of years. It was a tough month emotionally, but I got there in the end.

2018 in Review - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

September

This was a huge month for me - I QUIT MY JOB. After years of hard work I’d managed to secure funding to study full time and essentially live my dream. It was a crazy exciting time, but Mike and I still managed to find some time to head down to the south coast for a little trail running adventure around Thorney Island, a former military base that is fantastically eerie and cool. You can read about our run here, it was the perfect way to wind down before the crazy of my first term as a PhD student kicked off. Also I can’t forget that this was the month Doris came into my life! Who knew a little red bike could have such an impact on a person. You can catch up on all her adventures here.

2018 in Review - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

October

After the disappointment of a DNS at Edinburgh I was so excited to make it to the start line at Bournemouth! This marathon was a learning experience, a test ground and really really hilly. It blew my mind that I could travel on my own two feet for hours and come off strong at the end. This was a race I ran for myself, and it felt amazing. My full recap (aka a list of things I learnt) is here.

Outside of running I spent most of October trying to get used to my new life studying and working part time. It was a steep curve, and although I knew that the change would take some adjusting I hadn’t really banked on how much. I shared some of my thoughts on the process one month in, which you can find here.

2018 in Review - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness blog

November

In November I started training for my next big goal - The Speed Project 5.0. Being brutally honest the thought of training for this race was utterly overwhelming. How the hell do you train to run a relay across Death Valley? Initially I was relieved when the guys behind TSP shared a plan, but I quickly realised that it wasn’t going to work for me, the milage was far more than I was used to having followed the principles of Power Speed Endurance for a year and with term drawing to a close papers (and paperwork!) were taking over my life. Training went on a back burner and I focused on school.

2018 in Review - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

December

Erm how is it December already?! With term over I was all up to start training in earnest with my new virtual coaches at Run Namaste Eat, and then I got a concussion. The smack on my head (well chin if you want to be specific) saw training take a backseat again as I recovered, remembered how to use big words and stopped feeling quite so dizzy all the time. I think things are pretty much back to normal now, but it was not a fun experience! I’ve written all about how I dealt with it here.

Spending weeks at a time chained to your desk reading philosophy makes you make some strange choices, not least the decision to try cold water swimming! Turns out I loved it, although my toes did get very cold!! I’ve explained exactly why it felt great here.

And, just like that, the year is done. 2018 has flow by, upturning my life in the process. It’s not a year I’ll be forgetting any time soon. What were your highlights? Let me know in the comments below.

*images: Anna Rachel Photography, Alex Dixon Photography and Max Willcocks Photography.