Out of Office

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March and April went by in a blur of airport lounges, powerpoint presentations, hotel key cards and mini toiletries. I am now back in London for a good two months before the next round of travelling kicks off again and I am still waking up a little disorientated. It’s been a huge learning curve and I’m still reeling from the impact of being whisked across time zones and learning to adjust on the go.

I suspect I was a little naive about the impact the schedule would make on my day to day, Mainly as there is no ‘day to day’ so to speak.  Those that know me well, know that I am a big fan of structure and boundaries and clear routine. It makes me feel secure and confident and grounded. Nothing about the past month has been rooted in these principles. And that is both thrilling and unnerving.

I am a creature of habit. Obsessively, compulsively and to my core this character trait has both served me hugely (focus, tenacity, loyalty) and equally has nearly been my undoing. I have learned over the past 8 years or thereabouts to take this part of myself and channel it positively. Which is how every trait comes to be either positive or negative. It’s all in how its handled, what prism you put up to it.

The first thing to go was my running. I decided not to register for the current season of Run Dem Crew knowing that I was going to be out of the country for more Tuesdays than I was in it, and didn’t want to take up a much in demand space. While I was hoping to jump on a few casual runs and the Monday West sessions, the travel just wasn’t going to allow it. Mostly I miss the people, the amazing positivity and support, which when you don’t have your weekly dose, leaves a huge gap.

To be honest, I had decided to give up racing this year, to accommodate for my schedule, but I have found myself at the other extreme and now I’ve barely run at all. I have laced up a grand total of 4 times. That’s about once a month and I’m back to 10+ minute miles at a push with walking breaks. My confidence is shot too and the additional 10 pounds I have somehow found make lycra very very unappealing.

But if there’s one thing that I have learned in this brave new world of airmiles and conference calls, is that I can and must adjust to being flexible. That I can’t rely on the structure I set myself a year ago being applicable here in 2015. That I need to be softer with my self imposed boundaries and embrace a bit more uncertainty. That I need to learn to switch up faster and get a bit creative about my time when I am out of the country. Like make peace with the Dreadmill in the hotel gym. And take advantage of being jet-lagged and work out pre-breakfast (oh god… it’s unavoidable isn’t it?). And to pack enough socks. This was my big failing my last trip. NOT ENOUGH SOCKS

Now that I am back in London, one of my first priorities (after ALL the sleep) is to get out for a run. Even if it’s 20 minutes. And slow. With a walking break. The second is to get my new bike up and running. I have the quote, she’s in my sights and I’m looking forward to taking advantage of London in the Spring while I can.

After that I just want to soak up all that London has to offer. It’s a crazy old town, but having been away for close to 6 weeks of this year already, I can tell you absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.

In the meantime, any tips for travelling and keeping fit gratefully received!

Wheels on Fire: Riding The 2015 Argus

The year did not start well. Having Shingles and suffering a self-imposed quarantine when I was supposed to be training for 3 half marathons, two 10ks, a 100km bike race, seeing all the people in London and prepare for starting a new role was not ideal. I was furious about being ill. I thought I had really been looking after myself, obsessively it would appear, and that’s never any good.

But it was exactly what I needed. A kick up the backside to evaluate what was important – so I gleefully handed out race packs like a belated running Santa, cancelled all my social plans and decided to focus on the cycling and getting my head around a new job.

(Also can we talk about how marvellous it is just to say no? ‘No I can’t come out, because I am sitting in my pants watching Law & Order SVU and eating endless rice cakes. Basically winning’. Saving that for another post)

February saw me hitting Boom Cycle 3-4 times a week to keep up the fitness and also saw the advent of our annual work conference. By the time Feb 26th rolled around I hit Heathrow feeling exhausted and excited. A holiday, a few days catch up with the teams in SA and THE bike race. No biggy.

Now, to be honest, I was under-trained. My fitness levels were good, but I am nervous as all hell. I just hadn’t logged the long miles. But I also knew that the nerves could be a good thing, that additional hit of adrenalin that carries you through and drives you over the tough hills. I know these nerves well. I get them before every running race (even the fun ones), every time I get up on stage to present even though I have been doing it for well over 10 years, and every time I have to have those difficult, but essential conversations. Where there is risk I feel it. Every single time.

There is a school of thought that maintains the body can’t tell the difference between anxiety and excitement on a biological level (you science nerd please feel free to refute this!). Apparently, you release the same chemicals, the same heightened awareness, same surge of energy. It’s how your mind then interprets the feeling that makes it positive or negative. Hit of fear plus rush of endorphins is a pretty powerful cocktail. I have learned that pushing through the fear is essential to making life more open, interesting, full. Without it it’s small and claustrophobic and dull.

But I have also learned I need support to just go ahead and do it. On my own I’m no good. My mind is very frequently not my friend. It’s risk adverse, and lazy and prone to catastrophic thinking. I need people to point out the mad, destructive nonsense I tell myself and remind me its all good. And that if it goes wrong, that’s OK too.

Then this popped up in an article I was reading enroute to Cape Town. Pussy Riot hits the nail on the head. Given this is in relation to being arrested for political activism, and my cycling is hardly revolutionary, but the sentiment is bang on.

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So its a good job I don’t listen to my head. Because a week after I find myself in South Africa, Mother Nature decides to set fire to the entire Southern Peninsula, and that is no exaggeration. My catastrophic thinking is having a field day. Headlines like, ‘Hellfire Rages in the Cape’ adorn every lamppost in Jo’burg while I’m psyching myself up for my first ever bike race. People are being evacuated, dams are near empty, rock falls are a serious risk given the plant life helps stabilise the mountain side and is now no longer existent. Thankfully the Cape fire volunteers and fire servicemen and women put on the most heroic defence and curbed the blaze in 3 days.

So the race is still on. I am now officially bricking it. However, the Argus distance is cut from 109km to 47km. It’s just not safe to release 35,000 cyclists onto the route that will then cut off all of the southern suburbs in the wake of the most devastating fires in recent memory. Of course I’m gutted, but also ever so slightly relieved, in this scenario I get to test my riding legs on shorter distance. Until I remember it’s with exactly the same amount of people. 35,000 cyclists.

And the panic sets in.

The major difference I have found between cycling and running for me is the logistics. You can’t just chuck your shoes in your bag and head out on the road wherever you are. There’s the BIKE. There’s the helmet, the shoes, the kit you need for the bike for punctures and general maintenance. For this race I rented a bike in CT. Already breaking my cardinal rule of racing – GO WITH WHAT YOU KNOW. And crucially I don’t know this bike. I also don’t know if the bike is even going to show up, as the correspondence I’ve had with the company renting it to me has been patchy. Everyone is more laid back in the Cape. They aren’t all obsessively checking emails every 3 minutes. And swearing about lack of wifi.

Thankfully I get to tell my head to pipe down as the bike does show up and discover it’s ever so slightly too big. I panic again. So much so this time that I draw a complete blank and forget how to get on the damn thing. It takes a good 10minutes for me to get over this sheer terror, but once I do the bike is fine. It’s in hand. I haven’t forgotten how to ride. But how on earth am I going to do this with 35,000 other people?

My head creates these visions on a loop for my viewing pleasure, while trying to sleep: Causing a huge crash because I can’t stop quickly enough, the brakes failing, the wind blowing me off the road and into the sea, the wind blows me into other riders, etc etc and they escalate and get more horrific the less sleep I get. You don’t worry about this stuff when you run. You just stop. You don’t crash. You very rarely get blown off your feet. This whole endeavour begins to feel like a huge mistake that I am wholly unprepared for.

Until my dad, a seasoned veteran of the race and elite cyclist, decides he’s going to give up his elite start time, seeing as the shortened distance won’t count towards his seeding. He’ll cycle with me instead. It will be fun. He says. I think he could see just how panicked I was. ‘Just stick to the left, don’t look behind you and raise your hand high if you need to pull over’ he says when explaining cycle race etiquette. ‘Hold your line, and if someone clips your back wheel just keep going, he’ll fall but you probably won’t’. This talk of wheel clipping is terrifying when you’re in your holding pen with little more than elbow room with other cyclists, all looking like they ride professionally, with jerseys from Dubai and Hong Kong and Italy. And me with my flat pedals, no clips and ashen face, a big ZERO on my race number where is shows completed tours.

We shuffle our bikes forward and hug the left, they start counting down the minutes to start and I find myself feeling a mixture of gratitude that I have made it this far, and fear that I may vomit on the French woman in front of me, ruining her 13th tour. According to the bib. But I am here, in Cape Town, riding the (mini) Argus with my Dad. Something that has been on my bucket list for years. Something I thought would probably stay firmly inked on a list and not manifest itself like this. Me, terrified on a bike that’s too big, surrounded by cyclists and my Dad, having a laugh at my expense, but also there just like he was when he took off the training wheels some 30 years ago.

Of course it we have a total blast. I manage to get on the damn thing for a start. I don’t crash into anyone, no one crashes into me. I hit the hills, test the gears and find myself over taking people. There is some power in the legs after all. We hit the downhills and I slowly relax and take my fingers off the brakes. It really is pretty close to flying. I find some speed on the flats. The wind does not blow me off, in fact it blows me home once we turn around and head back for the finish line. And just like that it’s over.

We finish in 2 hours and 12 minutes, and I feel pretty confident we could have done it in just over 2 if I’d relaxed on the down hills more. I have no idea how that tallies, but gives me a rough idea that I could probably do a sub 4:30 Argus with loads more training and a bike that I am comfortable with. So that’s the next goal (nowhere near my Dad’s best of 2:58… but there’s still time).

I have been well and truly bitten by the biking bug, and with Spring just around the corner back in London, I really have no excuse to get back on the bike there too. Out of my comfort zone. Where all the good stuff happens.

Getting Snap Happy

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About 18 months ago I was given a very fancy pants camera for my birthday. I had been going on about wanting to take up photography more seriously for about 100 years, but could never bring myself to part with the serious money required to up my game and get some decent kit. So Rory called my bluff and delivered the real thing all wrapped up with a ribbon saying ‘you better bloody well get on with it now’.

The Beast really is a thing of beauty. A zoomy lens, a swish case, things that clip on and off, and a whole host of buttons and functions that made me feel really rather stupid. I poured over the manual, trying to take in all the instructions, and deduced that it may as well be in Japanese. There was a video or three that followed a very beautiful woman taking pictures of her family, showcasing the various functions, and her perfect hair. Life was too short to trawl YouTube, so I flicked the function to AUTO and took it out for a spin and took pretty great pictures. Plus, with a bit of TLC in the form of cropping and filters, pretty awesome pictures. Job done.

And that was 18 months ago, But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was somehow…. cheating? Or perhaps not cheating, exactly, but I certainly had no idea what was going on in my camera. I was relying on continuous shooing and dumb luck. The truth is, I was intimated by the tech and by the people who seemed to understand the tech. Chat of ISOs and Aperture and Shutter Speed made my head spin.  I messed around with white balance once and almost had to take my camera back to the shop because I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. I call that my ‘Blue’ period. Stella pulls it off rather well.

Having a snazzy camera comes with a certain presumption that you know what you’re doing, so I just kept schtum and hoped no one noticed my scarlet letter ‘A’ for Auto when peering over my shoulder.

For 18 months, ‘A’ was was OK, I was mainly using my camera on holiday and at events. I had got to grips with composition a bit and figured out a little more about interesting angles. I stopped cutting people’s feet off in the frame, and started messing about with more abstract ideas rather than straight up ‘Pics of my Holiday’ shots. And this is where I started getting frustrated. ‘A’ wasn’t getting me the effects I wanted. I saw vivid contrast, and got bland uniformity, I wanted to evoke speed, I got perfect stillness. It was time to bite the bullet and learn how to use The Beast  (aka Canon EOS 600D). But where to start? There are literally 100’s of courses out there.

Lucky for me I happen to spend my weeks running around London with a bunch of very creative people, and there I had met Matilda, who mentioned she was running Beginner’s Photography workshops and I should check them out.

So I did. It was awesome.

We met on the South Bank on a very cold Saturday morning, and spent the next 4 hours learning about our cameras, deciphering all the tech and lingo, and then getting to grips shooting live models (the gorgeous Tilly herself, as well as a few bemused cyclists)

I got to ask all my stupid questions, muck about with all the settings and started to understand why some shots worked and others didn’t. We’re incredibly lucky living in London as there are so many amazing opportunities to get creative, and Tilly gave us a few genius pointers to start thinking about photography differently.

Here are a few of my practise shots.

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Attempting panning and mucking about with shutter speed
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Much happier with this one, the cab in particular
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Vertical lines galore. Shadows, fences, arches
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Understanding depth of field. Slowly

Most importantly I walked away confident enough to leave my days of auto function behind me, and curious enough to try another workshop (or 5) with the big kids.

Any other snap happy bloggers out there with a few pointers to share?

To Accept the Things I Cannot Change

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To Accept The Things I Cannot Change, The Courage to Change the Things I Can

And The Wisdom to Know the Difference

Ah. A platitude. Add in this text over an instagram filtered sunset and (hey presto!) you have a mantra all ready to be uploaded and liked and favourited and reblogged, retweeted and shared. . Eugh. Bored already.

This here control freak finds this accepting things ‘that cannot be changed’ particularly hard. Being this way has its advantages. I am organised, and tenacious. I can be ruthlessly efficient and its certainly helped me out in many areas of my life. My project management can be militant and this extends from work life (huge positive) to home life (problematic).  I am manageable, I open my post immediately, I pay my bills on time without fail, I return missed calls, I clear emails. I am dependable, loyal and consistent. I aim to do my best. At all times. Why I do all of this is material for another post, but for now let’s just say I’m comfortable with clear structure and order. The alternative didn’t work out so well.

But if I fall short of these rather exacting expectations I can be unrealistically hard on myself, and I also expect similar behaviour from others. So this leaves me… well, disappointed, guilt-ridden and exhausted. Really really exhausted.

In my really (really) tightly ordered fantasy world, all things are measurable and therefore controllable. You can predict an outcome given certain behaviour and circumstances. Basic if x then y. So when faced with something that defies my master calculations (or manipulations), this is not acceptable. It comes up a lot (funny that). But, bear with me. I’m not completely nuts. I am learning to make like Elsa and let it go. I am trying to be more flexible, spontaneous, forgiving. But sometimes I find myself raging against the sheer injustice of reality not playing ball with my grand plans. I mean, I CHECKED EVERYTHING THREE TIMES (and the numbers work!)

Today the thing I cannot change is my health. GP has me signed off and I am PISSED. I have been exercising regularly, in fact I’ve been really diligent, with the running in particular. Plus eating (mostly) well. Making sure I get a decent dose of vitamin D and ‘fresh air’. I have avoided the office lurgy. I have had plenty of sleep.

But instead of holding up it’s end of the bargain having been given everything it needed, my immune systems fails spectacularly and pole jumps the standard cold/flu combo and delivers me an all singing all dancing, requires-bed-rest-and- proper-medication-illness. FFS. This was not supposed to happen.

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Stella showing me how bed rest is done. The Master at Work

I am also a drama queen. This added to my controlling tendencies and I am having one hell of a diva strop about this.I had some pretty awesome plans for my 10 days off work. Including but not limited to; running to clear the cobwebs, general mooching around town picking up sales bargains, seeing mates, and eating cake. Then maybe some cycling and yoga and general getting in a good, clear frame of mind for 2015. Sure, loads of sleeping was in the carefully planned schedule. But now that its pretty much been prescribed, I’m already adding cabin fever to my list of ailments. I say again, GAH.

Plus there is still too much panettone in the house. This is too much temptation.

But as I write this from my sofa I’m forced to admit, while I may be great at organising everything (and everyone) else, I am not very good at looking after myself. Sure I get loads of exercise, and while my diet has been ok most of the time, I pretty much dropped the ball for most of November and December. And yes I get a lot of sleep at the weekend, but not during the week. So its all a bit patchy. So here is my flaw. When it comes to looking after myself I am not consistent. I let myself down.

As a result I’ll be seeing in the New Year binge watching Die Hard and a few other festive classics, and eating the leftover panettone. In bed. While I reboot the immune system, and resolve to add berocca to my daily routine I am reminding myself it could be worse, I could use the time out and NYE is rubbish anyway

The rest of you have no such excuses, go out and celebrate the year that was in the best way you know how, clock those miles, spend that dosh and dance your freaking socks off into 2015.

As John McClane would say Yippee-ki-yay, motherf*ckers

Now pass that panettone and the ibprofen

Happy 2015!

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Silly Season Shenanigans

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Christmas is here and we’re all winding down, clearing out desks, or at home cleaning the house and doing a few last minute bits and bobs in preparation for the Day Of Good Eating. I have avoided mass panic so far and am trying to keep it that way. I am Zen. It’s just a day after all. The presents are bought and there is food in the fridge. Done.

I have a complex relationship with Christmas. I like the build up to it, the catch up with friends, the small gifts bought and cards written. I love the decorations and the trees and the fact that generally we all take stock and acknowledge each other, we get a break and we get a chance to recharge.

Growing up in South Africa Christmas also meant the big summer holidays so it was a month of festivities rather than a week. And it varied greatly depending on which part of the family we were spending it with. The huge extended Mills Clan in the Cape or our smaller immediate family in Jo’burg with a host of family friends. As a small child, Christmas in the Cape meant throwing ourselves head first into the sea, followed by the lake, followed by tea, followed by more sea and then dinner with endless cousins to hide in dunes, run up mountains, throw off canoes. We had competitions to see whose feet got the toughest walking down the gravel paths to the sea. Who could leave their flip-flops behind first and run across the stones without yelping. Who could swim across the lake the fastest. Christmas was very simple then. We turned up. There were presents/ the food arrived. We ate it and then went for a swim.

As we hurtled into our teen years, the attraction of the canoes in the lake or sea-shell hunting was replaced by late night beach excursions, smuggling illicit booze, talking about music, meeting boys (that had no connection to the family) and plotting ways to get into town. The traditions and rituals of our childhood were no longer exciting, nativity plays and carol singing holding little sway for a B&H smoking, eye-liner touting city girl who just wanted to go dancing late at night, with new people. Preferably who were DJs and had their own cars. Christmas was about avoiding family at all costs.

Christmas has also always been a season of firsts and milestones. The first time I got drunk was on Christmas night when I was 12. I was trying to impress my older second cousin with my sophistication, all dressed up in early 90s mono-chrome and being allowed ‘a small glass of wine’ which I topped up. Frequently. Like a grown up and out of the eye line of my parents. It was the first time I got busted smoking too. Having managed to skive a fag off the very same older cousin, I had forgotten to lock the bathroom door when my grandmother barged in. Thankfully slightly squiffy herself, she promised not to tell if I quit right there and then. I promptly vomited as soon as she closed the door. Turns out Baileys, wine and sheer terror don’t mix.

My first kiss was at Christmas, playing pool in a hotel with friends and a few local kids. My friend refused to speak to me for the rest of the holiday, kissing boys who didn’t really know was bad form (apparently). All these rules that no-one tells you about until you’re already in hot water. I did not learn this lesson and spent most Christmas holidays from then on kissing inappropriate boys. As most teen girls should.

Moving into adulthood, my first Christmas abroad without my family coincided with a long term relationship break up. A very last minute, cold, west and grey Christmas where a friend very kindly bundled me and my visiting sister off to their family outside of London. Followed quickly by a trip up to Scotland where I sobbed at my aunts’s kitchen table for 3 days, fuelled by Malboroughs, tea and an endless supply of biscuits.

The past few years have been fairly incident free. I’ve written cards signed ‘The Conquests’ and survived the insanity of the season by dressing the dog up as a reindeer. The complex relationship continues, I love the get togethers and the family time, but I find the competitive gifting, and garish over consumption leaves me as queasy. The binge and purge cycle of Christmas followed by the almost mandatory January detox seems so self inflicted and pointless. We’re encouraged to (over) eat, (over) drink, and be (very) merry and within 6 days sent the opposite message that the ‘excess holiday weight’ is hideous and needs to be shifted immediately. We’re bombarded with solutions to help us to clear out, detox, lose weight, quit drink, set goals, and start a New Year as a New You. Because the Old You Is Just Not Good Enough. And it’s so entrenched in our psyche we seem to just blindly walk into it. Its exhausting.

That’s not to say I disagree with over indulging, or that I think goal setting is naff. I love a goal. I also love cheese, on everything pretty much all year round. I have made peace with the fact I’ll put on a few pounds between November and December. But I resent the January onslaught from every corporate company on this planet making us all feel inferior for buying into the over indulgence they sold us just a week prior. Its a trap. And I am opting out.

So this New Year I am proposing not making any major changes at all. Looking back on this year, although its been tough in parts, we’ve managed just fine. We moved house. We saved some money. We travelled. I don’t need a brand new me just yet. I think we’re doing just fine, thank you very much. It is a season of firsts after all.

And I refuse to cut out carbs or cheese.

Happy Holidays all!

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Let Go & Make Space

 

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I started yoga about 6 weeks ago. This is my third attempt at getting into yoga. I really want to like it, I know it will be good for me and god dammit I like all the sexy yoga kit. But I have yet to ‘get’  it. Feeling irritable and bored rather than inspired. I’m not really into the woo woo ‘ohming’ and the third eye banter. I have been in classes where we have had to ‘become the tortoise on which the earth is balanced’ and I had to break out into a coughing fit to hide my scoffing. I am a cynical, sarcastic fitness fanatic and I need a whole heap of endorphins before I can start picturing tortoises. Or terrapins even.

But I think I’ve found The One in Vinyasa Flow Yoga. I love the movement and the breathing and they way I feel… light. Both mentally and physically. And no turtles in sight.

It was in one of my classes over the past few weeks that I heard a phrase which keeps ringing true for me. In the context of the class this was about relaxing into the pose and breathing through it. Let Go and Make Space. Breathe in and exhale, allow the muscles to relax and open, make more space.

But it got me thinking about all the stuff that we hang onto. All the stuff that takes up room. The physical stuff and more importantly the excess emotional baggage. And we complain we don’t have time, ‘no space in the diary’, no breaks in the week, no time to ‘catch our breath’.

Our time is not renewable. It is scarce. So how do we make precious space in the limited time we have? Simple. We let go..

So I get that. But of what? And when? And how much? And once I have let go how do I make sure I don’t grab back on?

I am having to get really honest to answer those questions, as ultimately its about sacrifice. I came across this article via the amazing Bangs and a Bun (if you’re not already following her, do it now) . This sums it up:

If you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs. If you want the six pack, you have to want the sweat, the soreness, the early mornings, and the hunger pangs. If you want the yacht, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business moves, and the possibility of pissing off a person or ten’

So if you want the space, you can’t have it all. If you get your head around letting go, you’ll have to get used to FOMO every now and again or risk getting stuck back in. It helps if you avoid the rabbit hole that is social media too.

This is where I am right now. Saying no. Not over-committing (to every race, every invite, every challenge etc…). The people-pleasing, overly needful behaviour of trying to be everywhere seeing everyone, all of the time while trying to over-achieve at work and maintain a beautiful marriage just ends up pissing people off and leaving me resentful.  When I am knackered and frazzled  inevitably I end up letting people or more importantly, myself down. And the GUILT. Yeah well fuck that. Let. It. Go. Embrace the Boundaries

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Embracing Boundaries – street art stylee

 

 

So what sacrifices  am I comfortable with? What costs am I happy to pay?

On a small scale, it turns out I am not happy to sacrifice my sleep on week days (funny that). I have been setting my alarm for 6am every day for MONTHS and then practically throwing my phone across the room EVERY SINGLE DAY.  So for now I am giving up on pre-dawn training and saying goodbye to berating myself for snoozing through the 6am alarm. So this is not the kind of pain I want.But I much prefer evening sessions., and that means I sacrifice a fair few social engagements. Or I combine them and get creative. See where this is going?  I had a joke with a mate who cancelled on me twice that she’s on strike two. Now of course I’m not randomly cutting people out of my life (yet), but you get the sentiment. Playing diary ping pong is exhausting.

On a larger scale, I am re-examining my goals for how I am investing my time in the same way I have looked at managing my money. What needs more investment, what gives the most return on investment  and what needs to be cut back or paid off and then budgeted out?

Definitely upping the fitness, but with more of a focus on enjoyment than obsessing with gadgets. If I can feel like THIS (see below) at least once a month a may have discovered the path the enlightenment. Put that in your Namaste and smoke it.

 

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Photo Credit: Ash Narod http://www.ashnarod.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

The Half Year Blog Birthday

Curled up on the sofa with a panicked dog (thanks Guy Fawkes) and a rotten cold (thanks London commuting) has given me an opportunity to catch up on my email, my diary planning and forced me to stop and take stock. Its been 6 months since I started writing this blog, and while it hasn’t quite turned out how I had envisioned it (what does?) I think I may be getting a better of idea of what I would like to do with it. Or rather what I’d like to do with my writing/ photography. The fact is,  it hasn’t gone to plan. But then again this year has not really gone to plan either, and it has been a huge lesson in going with the flow, which is not my natural state, being an anxious control freak.

2014 was going to be a new beginning. I was taking my running up a notch, I was going to travel more, I had big ideas.

My year with Run Dem Crew has been nothing short of inspiring, stepping up pace groups, epic cheering, international racing, new friends, old friends and race bling galore. Most importantly, I learned to run for the joy of it and finding that same joy in supporting others, and that times and speed were only a small part of it. And as our captain Charlie Dark always says, Run Dem is also a bridge to other things. I’ve found the courage to finally take the plunge buy a bike and start cycling and even give up my anti-yoga petition and succumb to the charms of Vinyasa (and the DOMS, near God).

There have been a few bumps along the way, we moved house in April throwing our schedules out of whack (they’re still a bit all over the shop) and a sprained ankle in particular that has slowed things down, plus a lack of motivation in the late summer, added to the on going work-life balance that I do not always get right. My blackberry obsession is never ending, and if I get one thing right in the next 6 months its that I need to master ‘switching off’.

I’ve started writing more, and ironically from that from that decided I need to up my photography game – that finding different ways to tell the story are increasingly important to me, and that I need to experiment with way of combing these more.

We travelled. A lot. We found our way to Thailand, to Berlin, to Morocco, a quick trip over to New York for good measure and a few unexpected days in South Africa. Our family visited us here in London, we got to play tourists in our own town and reconnected. My passport is smug and exhausted. To be honest I am a little exhausted.

So its odd that I feel like I should have been doing more. I feel I should have taken more time off my half marathon PB, that I should have found more time to train, that I haven’t spent enough time out of London, and that my writing hasn’t been a higher priority, which is true, because you know, life happens.

Perhaps the yoga will help me learn to be more flexible in all areas of my life.Let go and make space, my instructor says. Now that’s a mantra I can get with. I need to make peace with where I am rather than where I would like to be.

So between now and next May I’d like to re-evaluate my goals

* Get with the meditation vibes and learn to just BREATHE

* Get up to 50 miles on the bike by the end of the year, no mad racing, just steady!

* Run for joy. And repeat.

* Get snappy. Lose the filters

* Stop taking the piss out of the yogis

Whoo saaa bishes.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

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It’s warm. I don’t have my coat.  I walked down through Soho with my leather jacket slung over my handbag. Coming up the escalator at Tottenham Court Road, it could have been late July, humid and damp outside out the station, there is little relief exiting the underground. No bracing cold wind to chase away the stall tube air. But its not late July, it October, and by 7pm the sun is long gone and the festive lights are strung up ahead of the Friday night revellers, not yet lit but ominously signalling the onslaught of the Christmas. Friday night in Soho, unseasonably warm and its Halloween. Mischief and Mayhem wait in the wings, but for now she’s all perfectly applied black eyeliner, ladderless stockings and strategically positioned fangs. No one’s sold their soul just yet.

I’m not in costume tonight. I’m meeting old friends and taking a hiatus from hell raising, so the only make up I’m sporting is a slash of red lipstick which after  kissing everyone hello, is smudged over various cheeks and foreheads. Having a table outside the bar we have front row seats for the warm up show, meaning our conversation is peppered with phrases like ‘check out the  tossers dressed as power-rangers’ and mistaking a sexy waitress for our actual waitress more than once. The pubs have spilled out their costumed customers, doors flung wide open to the warm air. Jack’o lanterns winking in the windows, fake spider webbing over neon strip lighting.

By midnight I’m heading back home (for fear of turning into a pumpkin) and Soho has got involved. Her eyeliner is smudged, and the stockings are ripped. Three zombies are vomiting in succession outside a sex shop, a few sugar crazed 7 year olds are chasing each other down Dean street without parents, on scooters, knocking over a witch who can no longer balance on her stilettos. A couple are having a row at the bus stop, she is red eyed and shouting, he shuffling from one foot to another, his monster mask hanging around his neck looking forlorn and not nearly as scary as the his enraged girl who shoving him with her plastic pitchfork. Catwoman and her corpse bride pal are laughing behind their mobile phones, snapping gum and selfies while the N52 rumbles into view.

A dead marine jumps in front of me ‘BOO!’ he shouts,so close to my face I can smell the rancid booze and cigarette on his breath. Its feels violent. He laughs when I tell him to back off, he falls in with his undead platoon, whooping down Regent Street, shoving each other into the traffic. I give up on the bus when the countdown ticks up, 189  Cricklewood 20 mins – contemplating another 5 mins of the shrieking ghoulish hen party currently infesting the bus shelter is horrific enough.  I’ll have to brave the last tube fright fest and take my chances.

By the time I get home I’ve encountered a vampire Alice in Wonderland and a coven of witches taking over the local kebab shop, and a trio of escaped convicts trying to negotiate with a minicab driver ‘honestly we’ll be 5 minutes mate, we’ll be right back…’

I fall into bed, wishing  I could remember where I packed away my Carrie prom dress, the samurai sword from Kill Bill and my Cruella wig. I used to have this holiday licked. Next year, I’ll even carve a pumpkin.

London at its best, and its worst, dressed up as it’s darkest fantasies and best nightmares. Trick or Treat?

 

Changing Gears

My get up and go has got up and left. I suspect my racing mojo has been trying to find a way to break up with me since our shambolic outing in Hackney. Our recent ‘dirty’ weekend, ruined  by a tumble in Kent through some muddy tyres and what was supposed to ‘bring a bit of variety’ to our relationship has left us bruised and battered and more than a bit pissed off. But we promised each other the Royal Parks half marathon. Third time is the charm I said. So here we are less than 24 hours away from pinning race numbers and lacing up, its just over 13 miles until we take a little breather from racing, surely after all we’ve been through this year we can give it one last go?

Let’s not mention the Bike.

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(OK let’s)

The Bike is a new Thing. A shiny new thing. That goes faster than I can on foot. That may save me money on commuting, and could also help shift the ‘I’m in training’ pounds I seem to have acquired over the summer. It won’t aggravate my ITB, and I can buy new STUFF for it (and me). And its a proper road bike. A grown up bike.

But here’s the thing. I am totally, utterly, completely shit scared of cycling on London roads. Having a husband who is a cabby does not make this any better. He hate cyclists. Honestly, as a pedestrian in London, I hate cyclists. But here I am with my new toy and grand plans to cycle the Argus in Cape Town in March. So I need to cycle.

I also hate the morning rush hour on the tube more. So between getting over the fear of commuting, to being sneezed on, literally, but hundreds of people TWICE A DAY, its a straightforward decision.

Still terrified.

But going to do it anyway. Because these days I have learned to get stick at things, even when they are hard. Or when I suck at them.

This was not always the case.  There was the guitar when I was 16 that lasted all of 3 weeks because I didn’t have the patience to actually learn the chords, my hands couldn’t get into the right positions, and the strings bit my fingers.  I could manage E minor, D and C. Which I thought was about enough to get through Nirvana’s  ‘Come As You Are’ and then I gave up. And there went that idea, along with my dreams of joining HOLE and becoming best mates with Courtney Love.

A few years later, I decided if I couldn’t be a kick ass rock star, I’d be a kick ass martial artist (thank you Matrix/ Crouching Tiger). So I started Kung Fu and limped through 3+ years of fairly shoddy forms and sub par fitness. I loved the idea of it, but I couldn’t get my head around putting in the work. I just wanted it to happen instantly, without too much blood, sweat or tears. Instant Chow Yun-Fat. I attended training, but only ever  gave about 60%. And then I’d get upset when my gradings reflected that. My Tiger form was more fat tabby. Let’s be honest.  I was partly relieved when I left for London and it was’t practical to continue.

As a result of these failed endeavours  (and many others, there was the brush with Krav Maga that was so terrible I have almost wiped it from my memory) I started to believe that I just wasn’t any good at following through. I avoided committing to anything new, convinced I had a short attention span, and just no sticking power.

Then running came along and changed all that. I never had aspirations to be the next elite competitor, and I just loved that way it made me feel. And I have stuck at it, getting a little better every year. Not smashing PBs, rather chasing them down in a steady and considered way, following through and giving it a good go.

If I can translate some of that into the cycling I think we’ll be okay

Any  tips for newbie cyclists like me? Share in the comments!