| 2013 | 11 | 23 | mens health survival of the fittest |

I bloody well did it.

I actually crossed the line

If you've read my previous posts - you'll know how nervous I have been.

My fitness
As with the Spartan Race I didn't go into this completely unprepared. Following the very physically demanding summer, I didn't really wind it down once I got to Uni. Obviously the training schedule needed reassessing (lectures need working around) and essays had to take the priority. 

I felt a lot more confident running, and setting my own pace. Spartan taught me that I can really only go as fast as my body will let me, so there is no point in trying to aim higher. My jog is still borderline walking, but hey ho.

We're essentially beginners in a somewhat unforgiving environment. And we're doing just fine.

Race tactics with my dad. Ross takes it seriously
The day itself.
Ross was running this one with me. Our team has shrunk a little since the summer due to commitments and injury, but we both felt we wanted to prove ourselves.
We woke up at 7.30 and had a light breakfast. The night before we had well and truly tested our stomach capacity and felt a bit groggy - but we both knew we'd be grateful later on.
Because our heat was at 2.45 we had the entire morning to mope and allow time to pass, so obviously  constructively posed for pictures...

We did some careful stretching in the garden (it was such a beautiful day) before heading into London. My dad drove us as far as Putney (where he was umpiring a rowing race) and we hopped on a train to Battersea Park. 

This was about 12.30, and already we were feeling sick with nerves.

Arriving in the arena I was struck by how many people there were but registration was really quick. One of my favourite parts of these races is getting another t-shirt (the medal too!) but who doesn't love new clothes.

It was still sunny at this point, so we weren't too worried about the cold.

That was until we saw some of the obstacles.

The ice pit looked the  best.

Fifteen minutes before our heat we got shepherded into an enclosure.

The race

I'm sorry I don't have any 'during race' photographs - we didn't have a support team so the camera got left firmly in my bag. Even the professional course pictures didn't turn out too good, so you'll just have to use your imagination.

The hay bales to start were huge. So was every single obstacle we came across. Ross was probably the only reason I got round, he was there guiding me through every challenge I came up against.

This was definitely a manly course - I struggled a lot towards the end because my upper body just couldn't handle the constant onslaught, and I guess, I had undertrained.
The worst section was a 2 mile run along the river, my jog dropped to a pathetic shuffle but Ross stayed directly behind me so I didn't stop.
Traffic cones are heavier than you think.
This course felt very manly - think a construction site, mud and a firehose. We had to carry beer kegs and scramble through cars, lorries and tyres.
The people who helped me over the final famous 'wall of shame' are probably the best people in the world.

Our time was 1.22.14.

I am so proud of us for finishing.

Post race
I'm going to be honest here. We massively misjudged how our body's would react to the race, and it was a bit of a disaster. Foolishly, we both ate only a biscuit and an apple for lunch pre-race - as our stomachs were so unsettled. This didn't affect our race progress too much, but we both had a huge sugar crash after completing. We were fine queuing for the official photographs, changing out of our clothes and jumping on the train, but it was here that things got a bit hazy.

My dad met us at Putney, and we both kind of collapsed into the car. I essentially passed out and dozed for the journey home (I imagine Ross did too) in a state of hunger and fatigue. We haven't yet adapted to a full day of exertion so it was a bit of a shock. 

Arriving home we forced down some very hot sweet tea and Ross kindly let me in the shower first to warm up.

The hair dryer definitely helped, but we still felt very shaky.

After food and getting warm we looked a lot better :).
Learning curve
If we are going to do longer distances we need to be far more careful about what we eat and when.

Even if you don't feel like food, if you know you'll need it - force it down.

We can only get better and learn from our mistakes - we now know we function best when we eat our biggest meal lunchtime the day before, rather than dinner (tip #124566)

love sophie



| 2013 | 09 | 04 | spartan race sprint |

You may have noticed that for the past few months I've been making vague references to an endurance race,  training and having man arms. This was all in preparation for a Spartan Sprint Race - a 5km+ course with 20 obstacles and a lot of mud. I managed to drag 4 of my closest friends to join me in this silliness, and they were less than impressed.

My fitness
So, I didn't go into the race completely untrained. Once I knew I was entered into the race the boy and I decided to undertake the Insanity workout to get all over strength and resilience. We then started jogging regularly (I was 5 times a week) with press ups and squats in between.  When I went to Nice on holiday we took training to a new level (interval training up and down hills, with mountain walking to wind down). I hit some tremendous PB's after coming home from that!

Running has never been my forte, I'm just not built for it, but the boys dragged me on some ridiculously long runs to prove I was fit enough. Thanks chaps. But remember, I'm not a fitness buff, just an ordinary 21 year old!

The day itself.
I was up at 6. Nerves had gotten the better of me so I went downstairs to watch Cupcake Wars. As you do. Mike and Alec (my tallest friends) arrived after I had spent two hours faffing and forced our little convoy to get underway. My breakfast bacon sandwich was one of the hardest things to eat - bleurgh.

An hour and a half later we arrived at race location (near Saffron Walden) and parked up. From the registration tent we could see the final few obstacles. Don't they just look fun?

the fire was helping offset the chill
With 15 minutes to go before kick off, competitors started to assemble in front of the start line. We decided to attempt a halfway start, not to be stuck completely at the back of the group but far enough from the front to avoid the crush.

top stretching technique

lead spartan and Head Coach. The speech fired up the masses. Truly. 
Following kicking my fellow racer in the face (we had to do some practice burpees) the race was underway. First few obstacles were hay bales, followed by a steep climb, a brief run and then a mud pit. Mud already. The thick muck took out a couple of our number, one man lost his shoe and another woman killed her knee. The next bit of the course was through woodland, a thin trail over very rough terrain. I went over on my ankle twice but kept going courtesy of taking copious amounts of painkillers prior to the start (trooper). This section was quite long and brought us out onto a grassy field. I can't really remember the order but there was some jumping and crawling, more ditches to jump over and other various carrying activities before we headed back to the starting area. A small group of us had started running together. That kind of camaraderie only comes about when you're doing something utterly ridiculous. The next few obstacles were to be completed in front of friends and family so we all got our game faces on...

see what I was saying about making friends?
we women got to lift pink blocks. apparently they were lighter...
 I managed to kick a lot of people in the face over the course of the race. They didn't seem to mind (too much). Two fell foul to my out of control feet when climbing over the frame. Sorry!

After this point there was a long way to go, but thankfully there had been a water stop to replenish our dehydrated bodies.

The 'stone area' was interesting. Tyre dragging was just exhausting, carrying sandbags and rocks took away what energy I had left, and that was before the ice pit. We had to climb under barbed wire and dive into a mud pit filled with freezing water. Oh, and then climb out of it, before sliding into another one. And then another. It just didn't stop. We were ruined.

Just in front of the finish line we had to cross some monkey bars (which by that point I couldn't hold on to - 30 forfeit burpees for me!) and jump fire. I think I took the fire a bit too seriously.

Once you had cleared the fire, it was one more rope climb and some spartan gladiators to push past. Unfortunately the whole climbing thing wasn't my strongest point.

I made it to the top in one go. But the whole getting down was the issue.

The lovely volunteers didn't leave me 'hanging' for long.

But I made the mistake of sliding down the rope.

That's the face you get from rope burn. 
 I took the smart tactic of engaging the 'gladiators' with sticks in conversation to distract them long enough so I could sneak past without them knocking me down.

he was having none of it
I had finished the course in a time of 1hr 25. That's a long time.

 I am so proud of myself. I know that my time is probably not going to ever win anyone any awards, but I made it around the entire course without walking and only 'failed' three of the obstacles (the ones I was expecting to!). If you want a race which is a challenge but not impossible, this is the one for you!

Our little team has already committed to it next year - and some others in between!!

i apologise for the wandering eyes. This is all you're gonna get.
Will I see you there?



| 2013 | 08 | 08 | nice day 5, 6, 7+8 |

These three days (plus the travel day) were more of the now established routine. Early wake up calls for those who were participating in the morning run, followed by a trip to the local croissant shop for some breakfast.

We'd then sit around in the sun all morning until the midday heat became unbearable - it doesn't take much here.

Afternoon activities were still limited to mountain climbing, visiting random places or sleeping.

Day 5- visited Grasse. Now this was a stressful adventure

My Dad felt it was appropriate that we had a 'cultural' expedition. So he picked a spot on the map and decided we would go there. Turns out, interestingly, Grasse is considered to be the perfume capital of the world and has a dedicated museum. Setting our sights on this elusive location, our driver (the father) decided to ignore all directions from the key navigator (moi) and got horrendously lost and angry. That's okay though, he calmed down once we assured him there would be a cuppa at the end of it all.

The museum was surprisingly interesting (annoyingly no photography allowed). My basic French vocab allows me to have a slight understanding of the written words so I gleamed some interesting facts. I wish our perfume bottles nowadays were as gorgeous as those in the 18th and 19th century.

Our little group was by this point quite hungry so went on a crepe hunt. Yummy. The weather still held up, hitting 34 degrees. Scorching.

Day 6 - mountain again. Because the first time was great

The boy and I, in the spirit of training for Spartan (yes that's still creeping closer) decided to speed walk back down and up the valley in 30 degree heat.

I enjoyed it even less without the adventure of almost falling off. But I'm still proud we completed it in an hour and half, equipped with super sensible shoes.

That evening we demolished dinner and and worked our way through the second of our anticipated melons. Cheekay.

this is the view from the not quite top window. I almost dropped my camera.

I accidentally left a window open that night, and coupled with leaving a light on we managed to accumulate a million moths and the biggest dragonfly I have ever seen. You could have probably ridden on it.

Day 7 - we went for a strange drive around the road and the market

The morning kicked off with the town's market. Having spent the week in a kind of ghost town we were shocked by the hustle and bustle. Above is pictured olive wood kitcheny bits - I have such a crush on it and would have happily bought the majority were my baggage allowance not quite so full.

France has such exciting food. I don't even know how tomatoes get like that. And yes, bottom right are eggs. 

If you walk a little past the market into the old town you will stumble upon the renowned place for viewing the valley. Windyyyy. 

Ahhh, lovely french things. Honey, flavoured with flowers from the valley (I think), sundried tomatoes and olives, and big bottles of olive oil (meant to be a local specialty). A little cheeky splurge. I cannot wait to try the honey.

After lunch we hopped in the car and went for an exploratory drive. My poor dad still cant drive the wrong way round car and really struggles with the windy roads. Hah. The air-con was such a relief, it hit 36 degrees or something silly.

We found a bridge over La Siagne (the one we walked down the mountain to find), and started driving up the other side.

On holiday with two other bloggers, what do you expect.

If you look at the below photo you can see our house. It's kind of hard for me to explain exactly which one, so you pick!

Day 8 -To the airport. what fun

For breakfast I treated myself to a Pain au Raisin - so so good, but so so naughty - and packed my bags by putting things in the others suitcases.

all that sugar. yum
One last picture of the valley before we had to say goodbye.

We left our hosts a message in their visitors book - looks like we weren't the only ones to have a good time! The picture was before my dad had left his scrawl, if you noticed the missing word...

We had to collar up for the journey home, but please, no ties. Let us not be ridiculous.

He couldn't wait to get back in a right hand drive.

My suitcase didn't fit in the boot so these kids got to snuggle with it the whole way back. That's over an hour.

Au revoir france -  you will be missed!