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!






Set Up To Fail? Women and Sport Science

Women in Sport Science - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

One of my biggest passions is advocating for women in sport. I firmly believe that gender ideology around sport undermines women’s participation, whether that’s giving girls the impression that sport isn’t for them, selling the idea of cosmetic fitness above performance or sports science that privileges men.

Writing in The Telegraph, Caroline Criado Perez explains (extremely succinctly) the ways that sports science fails women and draws specific attention to ‘the gender data gap’. The gender data gap is the difference between the amount of data and research we have in relation to women verses the amount we have in relation to men. Where a gender data gap exists we risk drawing conclusions that potentially favour one gender over the other. Caroline outlines a really great example of this in relation to carb-loading (something very close to a lot of runner’s hearts, especially in the run up to London Marathon!):

The general advice for endurance athletes is to carb-load, with at least one expert specifically advising against fat-loading.

But it turns out that this standard pre-race advice is based on studies in men. And it does not hold for women, who have to eat 34 per cent more calories than they usually would to achieve even 50 per cent of the performance benefit men experience from carb-loading. Which may not be an “appropriate strategy” given “the potential deleterious effects on performance” of overeating. Rather, the authors suggest, because women burn more fat than men during endurance exercise, they might be better off fat-loading. Might. We do not know, because, of course, “few studies examining the effects of fat loading […] on performance have included women”.

In short, because of the gender data gap the pre-race nutrition strategy used by a lot of women might actually be undermining their performance. Not cool.

Women and Sport Science - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

This isn’t to say that the advice to carb-load is necessarily wrong, it just might not be right for women, because the majority of sports science research is carried out on men. More concerning is the impact the gender data gap could have on advice relating to more serious health conditions, which Caroline explores in relation to high blood pressure and highlights that if more sports science research included female participants we might take a different approach to managing this condition in women.

So why does this happen? You’d think scientific rigour would demand thought be put into sample populations when carrying out research, and it probably is, but in my mind the issue comes back to gender ideology. Gender ideology in sport is pervasive, modern sport is a symbol of masculinity and in turn that creates a powerful form of sexism. We see it everywhere, media coverage that is saturated with images of male sporting performance, interviews where female athletes are quizzed about their personal lives over their athletic interests, the challenge of securing coverage for women’s events (and accompanying mutterings that, really, they’re a bit crap). The world around us constantly reinforces the idea that sport is for men, so why would sports science be any different? Academics aren’t infallible, our choices are always informed by our experiences, that is ideology at play.

Women and Sports Science - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

The challenge in this scenario is that by its very definition ideology is a set of beliefs or principles on which social organisation is based. As I’ve mentioned, in my work I argue that modern sport is a symbol of masculinity which plays out as sexism in society. When I talk about gender in my work I am referring to the socially constructed roles of men and women. In British society gender has historically been categorised based on biological definitions, focusing on the idea that there is a ‘natural’ difference between people in each category. Overlaying this is the idea that men in British society experience privilege, and this is used to determine and justify the difference placed on people in each category.

Sport as we know it emerged during the Victorian era and were very much the domaine of men. They were symbols of masculinity, chauvinism and power. Women for the most part were excluded. If they did engage in sport they were deemed unattractive (aesthetic rationale), acting in opposition to femininity (social rationale) and at risk of endangering themselves psychologically and physically (medical rationale). The belief that there's innate biological and psychological differences between the sexes created a form of sexism so pervasive and powerful that the exclusion of women from sport felt like common sense. And so women’s participation was restricted to whatever activities society (men) felt were acceptable and outside of these narrow parameters was unwelcome.

Women and Sports Science - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Although we’ve come a long way (and this post explains how), social and cultural ideas about how the genders ought to behave remain pervasive and continue to play a role in the choices we make, for example whether we choose to participate in sport, what sport and to what extent. Arguably ideology has had the effect of protecting sport as a masculine domaine and we are still in the very early days of overcoming this, which could be one of the reasons why there is such a significant gender data gap in sport.

You can help overcome this gap by challenging assumptions, share articles like this one and Caroline’s piece in The Telegraph, participate in sport and share your experiences, go to watch women’s sport, watch women’s sport on TV and encourage others to do the same, support publications that actively promote women’s sport and generally make some noise! If you come across someone who is disparaging help educate them, it’s chipping away that makes change.

*images: Kaye Ford





Runderwear - Chafe Free in the Desert

This post is in collaboration with Runderwear.

Runderwear - Chafe Free Running Underwear - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Where do you start telling the story of 60 hours running in the desert? To be honest I’m still processing The Speed Project, it was singly one of the most surreal and epic adventures I’ve ever had and it’s going to take me some time to get my head around it all (and sift through the metric tonne of footage and hundreds of still images we generated). For now I’m sharing the tidbits I can process, and where better to start than my favourite topic, Chafing!

Sometimes I wonder if I should stop saying this is a running blog and rebrand as a chafing hotspot. I seem to be obsessed with clammy nether regions and painful rubbing, so I’m pretty sure I could turn it into a thing, but then maybe it would be awkward to explain at parties…I digress. Even if you’re not weirdly obsessed with chafing (prevention and management) going for a 340 mile jog through Death Valley will put it on your radar as all that sweat can wreak havoc on parts of your body that touch.

Runderwear - Chafe Free Running Underwear - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

One of the areas I chafe the most is my butt. Yep, it’s true, after Royal Parks Half Marathon a couple of years ago I looked like a tiger had mauled my arse and sitting down was really not an option for a few weeks. Broken skin is a regular occurrence for me, whether it’s my butt, thighs, arms, lower back, some part of me is going to come back from a run chapped and rubbed raw. Not Fun. Really not fun if you have a few hundred miles left to run. However, at The National Running Show this year I was lucky enough to run into the guys from Runderwear and they sorted me out with some lovely soft pants that they promised would see me through the race chafe free!

I’d always been a bit curious about Runderwear. Were they a massive gimmick? Were they worth the money (women’s pants retail from £16-20 a pair)? Would they solve all my problems? Well the answers are No. Yes. Yes.

Runderwear - Chafe Free Running Underwear - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

I took two pairs of Runderwear with me to the States and wore each pair for 24 hours (because I am feral like that). Each pair were worn through multiple legs and rest periods, which would be gross in any other scenario but proved to be the perfect test as I could really see if they did wick sweat away and prevent that nasty clamminess that leads to rashes and sore skin. It was a big ask, but Runderwear was up to the job, two days wallowing in my own sweat and I emerged in Vegas tired, sore and hungry but without a single blemish on my skin from rubbing. Win.

The pants I tried during The Speed Project were the Women’s Brief and the Low Rise Hipster. Both were actually pretty high rise - Baby One More Time Britney would have issues - but I liked that because it meant my pants hit the waistline of my shorts, which is really comfy and avoids weird bumps and bulges. What was more awkward for me was that both pairs had pretty high cut legs, which I am really not used to. I found that it meant the pants dug in a little and left me with some pretty pronounced VPL, maybe not an issue in the desert but sometimes you don’t want to draw attention to your undies. Since I’ve come home Runderwear has sent me some Hot Pants and the No VLP Hipster which I am really excited about (and will report back on soon!).

Runderwear - Chafe Free Running Underwear - A Pretty Place to  Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

High cut legs aside I found these pants extremely comfortable and crucially they helped me get through Death Valley in relative comfort and without any chafing to deal with otherwise. Which is just as well given all the other injuries I sustained! I’ll defiantly be keeping them in rotation and packing them for all my running adventures this summer (dodgy leg notwithstanding!).

Have you tried Runderwear? What are your thoughts?

*Runderwear sent me various products to try but all opinions are my own.

** images: Kaye Ford.