Monthly Archives: October 2010

Outfit Of Desire

And so to Paris. The land of chic boutiques, alfresco coffees and iconic landmarks at every turn. It’s easy to get caught up in the romantic ideal of Paris and forget to carve out your own little corner. So aside from a few recommendations from very trusted sources, this time I’m going blind, with my nose as my guide and a ‘yes please’ attitude as my currency. Try everything, look everywhere and reward with a glass of red wine at every shop/bar/cafe/gallery/stone unturned.

 

magnifique

 

Packing is easy. This season’s lady like looks were made for the streets of Paris and the camels, reds and the odd Breton stripe (naturally) will look c’est chic without trying too hard. The only problem is, the coat I’ve ordered and styled my entire french wardrobe on, is yet to turn up. Damn you Zara online.

 

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72 Hours in San Francisco

Should you be inspired to run the San Fran Marathon, here’s a suggestion of how to spend your down time…

Unpack… your kit bag at the elegant and seductive Clift Hotel. With Philippe Starck design features, crackling fire and low-lit cocktail bar, it’s a sleek and sumptuous retreat.

Search… for your name on the Nike Town Nike Womens San Fran Marathon outside wall. Then sharpen your elbows and step inside for shorts, tshirts and hoodys galore in colourways not yet available in the UK. Then its a hop, skip and a jump over to Union Square and the marathon Expotique, where you’ll pick up your race pack and calm nerves by watching a video of the race route, tasting sports bars and soaking up the pre marathon excitement.


Chow… down on authentic mexican burritos loaded with spicy beef, creamy guacamole and the tangiest salsa at La Taqueria, San Fran’s oldest Mexican canteena. Film posters, a juke box stacked with, ahem, famous Latin hits and San Fran locals all jostle for space.


Ride… around the city in one of the famed cable cars and get acquainted with the vertiginous hills. Start at Pier 39 and admire the eery Alcatraz while slurping up a thick clam chowder served in a famous sourdough bowl. Take a moment to peer down at the velvety brown sealions below.

Peruse… the extensive wine list at Bar Bambino. Post industrial surrounds and dishes including rich rabbit gnocchi make for an intriguing combination of urban eatery meets hearty and traditional fare.

Relax… at the Kibuki Springs and Spa with an indulgent Swedish Massage. Expert staff will knead out marathon induced knots and make your limbs love you again, while you sink into a blissful semi-consiousness. 

Sip… a silky cappuccino and meander in and out of the well stocked vintage shops and coffee houses of Valencia Street in The Mission district. Dainty lace dresses, boutique jewellery, antique crockery and carefully selected furniture give each shop a straight-out-of-Wallpaper magazine appeal.


Loosen… your top button at Lories Diner. Moon sized burgers, salty gherkin, stacks of sweet potato fries and a vase of creamy Oreo Cookie milkshake will replenish post race stocks as you sit in shiny booths surrounded by 50s style diner parafanalia and a mint green Cadallac.


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Nike Women’s San Fran Marathon

I have entered a new phase in my life. For the last twelve weeks I’ve been operating in BM (before marathon) now I am in AM (after marathon). BM was a series of training programmes, watching (but not giving up) alcohol and the ever-present undercurrent of fear. Now, aside from the dull, no screw it, semi-crippling ache in my thighs – damn AM living feels good.

On Sunday I ran 26.2 miles in the Nike Women’s San Fran Marathon – traversing the beautiful city, vertiginous hills and bitterly cold rain to smash through the finish line in 4 hours 24 mins.

Run little legs
Starting at 7am, in the dark, from the heart of the city’s Union Square were 25,000 women, and er, the odd man in drag. My team met at 5am in a nearby 24 hour diner, where we forced down porridge, fruit, coffee and plenty of water.

The start pens were a buzz of nervous energy. Union Square with its palm trees, skyscrapers, twinkling lights, the national anthem sung acapella and rousing speeches from Olympic medal holders, befitted the enormity of what was to me, such a momentous occasion.

You can say what you want about Americans, but, damn, when it comes to team spirit they’ve got it nailed.

In the last 30 seconds before the start gun, I closed my eyes, visualised the finish line and took a final deep breath before locking eyes with the digital time counter and getting ready to take my first step. 25,000 voices marked out 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and I felt my nerves escape me taking the first step on this 26.2 mile journey.

With 25,000 women jostling for space, I made a beeline for the outer edges of the streets to forge my own path. Settling into a comfortable pace and breathing in the morning air I watched the darkness thin and daytime blur into vision.

Escaping the financial district with it’s towering graphic buildings, we headed towards Pier 39 and the coast. Rising mystically through the sea mist, Alcatraz came into view with the iconic Golden Gate Bridge emerging in the distance. Wow.

At mile 2, along with a thousand others, I shed my outer layer, donating it to the homeless – the street momentarily becoming a carpet of zipped-up hoodys.

At mile 4, veering left, the first hill came into sight. Having worked hard on my hill training with Nike Master Trainer Brian, I wondered if I was alone in being secretly excited about taking on the concrete mountain. Keeping my pace solid and gait steady I glided up the gradient with ease, overtaking those faltering and giving me a much-needed boost of confidence.

At mile 6 we were challenged with the first serious hill. Approaching the foot, I dug deep and looked at it optimistically – my chance to use the skills mastered in training and gain some ground.

The hill wound up and up, at each corner sweeping ever higher, creating a breathtaking view back down into the watery bay. There are few times in life when we feel genuine self-love, but I can honestly say as I sprinted up the mile long hill past strong women reduced to a stagger, I felt a swell of pride that I’ll never forget. Feeling strong, healthy and able afforded a bigger high than any payrise could ever command.

I spent miles 4 – 17 enjoying this glowing sense of achievement – cutting through the air, covering ground  at pace and soaking up the scenery. I relished all the difficult training I’d completed, realising just how worthwhile it had been. Train hard, run easy. If I’m honest I felt smug. Well… pride always comes before a fall. And at mile 17 I stopped feeling quite so perky.

Every marathon runner knows that completion is as much a psychological battle as it is a physical one. Passing the mile 17 marker, I was smacked with the fact I still had 9 miles to go. While in isolation, 9 miles is (now for me) easily achievable, but having already clocked up 17 of the buggers, another 9 seemed like, well, a pretty bleak prospect.

At mile 18, my limbs started to flag. My hamstrings and knees were burning and no amount of bum kicking (a vain attempt to stretch them out) was working. And to make matters more hilarious, like some hideous case of pathetic fallacy the weather changed from mild sunshine to heavy grey sky, a thrashing rain and aggressive coastal wind.

As an extra hurl of mockery, at mile 18 the course also passes by the finish line. I tried to squash the feeling that the marathon was now smirking at me – ‘hey smug girl, not so easy now eh?’ I imagined it saying. The road was straight, flat and seemingly to me, never-ending. I was not about to let the big bad marathon beat me, physically or emotionally, so rather than focus on how far I had left, I focused on how far this journey had already taken me.

At school I was the girl who couldn’t run. Cross Country lessons were a series of faked knees injuries, shameful finish times and embarrassing failures. I was as convinced as my PE teachers that I should stick to the day job. And now, after only 12 weeks of focused training, there was that same little girl, two thirds of the way around a marathon. San Fransisco-bloody-hills-and-all marathon at that. I wasn’t about to let some wind, rain, sore knees and a mere 9 miles get in the way of enjoying a triumphant finish.

At mile 20, a gentle incline and the peak of a hill revealed an enormous lake. The impact of visually taking in quite how far 3 miles was going to be was a psychological strain. I put my head down, sheltered my eyes from the rain and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. Each mile seemed to last a lifetime. Driving my arms back and forth I felt my core carry me onwards – stomach muscles pulsating as they worked like they’ve never worked before. I loosened my palms into cup shapes and imagined them pushing the air back, removing the final miles from the marathon inch by inch. As the end of the lake came into view I knew I had only 3 miles left before victory would be mine.

Three miles. Three little miles. Easy. I was on the home straight. The path to the finish was an uninterrupted straight. With each footstep I willed the end line into view. At this point, the tiniest change to distract from the pain really boosts morale – hence why I’ve never been so pleased to hear Katy Perry singing about kissing girls as speakers blared out her usually irritating tune.

After the tunes, the cheering crowds resumed and sodden spectators starting hollering ‘Go on Emily,’ ‘you can do it,’. A rush of energy followed.

I imagined hugs, cocktails, dry clothes and a long sleep – in that exact order and burned onwards. Each mile felt like 10, but I urged my legs to carry on and not give in to the ever tempting urge to walk. I talked to my thighs, my calfs and my tiny feet as though they were separated from my body. I vowed never again to stand in the mirror and curse them for being too big, too pitted or too pasty. These legs, these strong, fantastic legs that were carrying me ever closer to succeeding in the biggest physical challenge I’ve ever set myself. I reminded myself of how lucky I was to have a body this capable and raced on.

Through the sea mist the finish came into view. I’d been running for over 4 hours, far longer than ever before, and now it was nearly over. Victory was about to me mine. I accelerated the last 100 metres, determined to finish strong and stamped down on the timing strip with my Nike’s. Time seemed to suddenly speed up, and normal life whirled around me as I became blissfully lost in my own elation. I saw myself throw arms into the air, catch my face in hands with utter disbelief then revel in that few precious moments that no one can ever take away – the feeling of succeeding at something so physically challenging that there was a time it seemed impossible and out of reach – a high beyond any other.

As a foil blanket, Tiffany medal, pineapple juice and a bottle of quenching water were thrust into my tired, elated and thirsty hands I looked down and gave myself a deserved look of respect. I had never felt more myself than in those golden seconds of glee. You go body. I run to be.

My Marathon

Eats

  • Our UK team met at a 24 hour diner where we wolfed down the breakfast of champions – porridge, dried fruit and honey, a bran muffin and natural yoghurt with fresh strawberries topped off with coffee to flush it all through and a litre of water.
  • During the race I ate two bags of Jelly Belly Sports Beans to sustain energy levels and keep sugars and carb levels up.

Hydration

  • Coconut Water pre race for hydration and electrolytes
  • Water, at the water stations dotted along the course
  • Radioactive looking Gatorade
  • Post race – a bottle of water and a fresh pineapple juice, followed by two hot chocolates with a giant heap of sugar. Oh and a couple of hours later copious amounts of Champagne.

War Wounds

  • A few blisters and a slightly bruised toenail were the only sign that my feet had clocked up 26.2 miles
  • After a cold bath to speed up muscle repair my quads were still exceedingly tight. Lactic acid and general overuse meant walking down stairs, sitting down caused considerable pain
  • Unexpectedly it was my sports bra that inflicted the worst injury. Along the lining under my arms, skin had been rubbed raw leaving painful scabs that I’m still waiting to heel. All in all, a small price to pay.

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Marathon Day

It’s 4am. I’m wide awake. I’ve woken up on the hour every hour since going to bed at 10pm. I’m so nervous/excited that my own heartbeat woke me up at one point, beating loudly against the duvet. The next time I woke up, I was in cold sweats. Now I’m supping Barocca and mentally preparing for todays marathon. I’m meeting the other ladies – Avril Mair and Jenny Dickinson from Elle Magazine, Elin Tough from Zest and the wonderful Nike girls Jo Taylor and Emma Kettlewell – at 5am in a 24 hour diner for breakfast and coffee (I’ll be eating a bran muffin with fresh fruit and seeds – today is not the day for trying anything new or potentially upsetting). Then it’s to bag check for 6am ready for a 7am start. Thank goodness race day is finally here, I don’t think I can bear the wait any longer. I’ll see you on the other side.

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Marathon Survival Kit

marathon survival kit

  • Neon pink Monika Club Bag, for carrying all essentials to the start line
  • Nike Lunar Eclipse, these guys are going to carry me 26.2 miles tomorrow
  • Warm jumper for pre-race warm-up and start line
  • Nike leggings with zip hems
  • dri-Fit anti blister double lined socks
  • Dry-Fit tee with all important name printed, cheers will apparently keep me going when the going gets tough
  • Jelly Belly Sports Beans packed with electrolytes, vitamin B, carbs and sugar
  • Berrocca, to kick start the day with much needed vitamins
  • Wallpaper guide to San Fran, for reading this evening and planning that post race cocktail
  • Vita Tonic Coconut Water, to drink half an hour before the start time – more electrolytes than most sports drinks and much tastier
  • Evian water, dehydration is the enemy
  • Nike Women’s San Fran Mara race pack, with timing chip and race number
  • Compeed plasters to cover blisters attained in training

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The Day Before A Marathon

Tomorrow I’m running the Nike Women’s San Fran Marathon. Today the conversation has been dominated by what we should be eating, drinking and thinking in the final hours before the race. After extensive research from marathon veterans and scientific research alike, here are my top tips on how to live the day before a marathon.

Mind
It’s important to keep relaxed, visualise the finish line and imagine the euphoria.
Try not to panic. You’ve put in the hard training, don’t disrespect your hard work by allowing thoughts of failure to creep in.
Prepare your kit – lay out all apparel, including sweatshirts and drinks for the start line aswell as the clothes you’ll be wearing.

Body
Hydration is key, not only during the race but the day before. Guzzle water and also sip electrolytes, it will build up reserves for the next day.
Food is important. Eat a balance of complex carbs, protein and good fats – try not to eat anything that could potentially upset your tummy like spices or excess dairy. 
Wear comfy, flat shoes – look after your legs, so they can look after you.

Spirit
Get a good nights sleep. You’ll need all the energy you have so you can perform to the best of your ability. 

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Virgin First Class – to fly or not to fly?

It’s 7am San Fran time. I’m wide awake, giddy with excitement for tomorrow’s marathon and slightly dazed from jet lag. We arrived in sun soaked San Fran yesterday afternoon, after a 12 hour flight from London Heathrow. I was lucky to see ‘how the other half live’, having flown, for the first time, in Upper Class. So, is it worth the hype?

Pre Flight?
The separate check in has miniscule queues, after which you get whisked upstairs into the Virgin First Class Lounge. A restaurant, viewing area, comfy sofas, low tables and even a cow shed spa, complete with sauna, pool and a variety of paid for and complimentary treatments. An extensive menu ranges from Eggs Royale to Chilled cucumber soup or you can select from the buffet with choice cuts of smoked salmon and fresh pastries. Service is attentive and friendly, the bar is better stocked than Mahikis and no one bats at eyelid when you order coffee, kedgeree and Champagne at 9am. Everything is of course included in your ticket price, so all that remains is to say yes to everything and soak it all up, before receiving a personal call over the tanoy alerting you it;’s 20 mins until take off. Beats TGI Fridays and a mince around WHSmith any day. You can also bring one guest in with you, so if your mates are in the cheap seats, they still get a taste of luxury before take-off.

Hot Seat
We flew on Virgin’s Cosmic Girl, a giant double decker airbus, with only 40 seats for Upper passengers. Seats have feet rests and transform into a fully horizontal bed should you wish to sleep at any point. An entertainment system is set on a retractable arm, so no matter how many bottles of bubbly you’ve got stacked up, you can still find a way to get optimum viewing pleasure. Each seat has the feeling of being self-contained, there’s no jostling for the arm rest here. Personal angle poise lamps, retractable tables and a ledge for your book, all included.

What’s cooking?
The menu changes daily. For our daytime flight there was a choice of three starters (I had the prawn and halibut), mains (I had a beef wellington) and desserts (sticky toffee pudding), light bites and afternoon tea (sandwiches, scones and cupcakes). All food is served at your seat, unless you’d like to sit at the bar. Silver service, fresh hot bread and attentive staff make this the most delicious and comfortable meal I’ve had in flight.

Drink Me
From the comfort of your seat, or at the busy little first class bar you can enjoy unlimited Champagne, red and white wine, spirits, hots drinks, soft drinks. You get the picture, whatever you’d like, it’s yours. But what makes this special, is that Virgin has taken the time to select three choice wines, an aged port and even has a guest spirit on each flight, so there’s the feeling of being treated to decent, well thought out alcohol. A rarity in many bars, let alone on an aeroplane. 

Sleepy Time
Proper pillows and duvets, along with a bed sheet are provided. As is a flight pack with cosy socks and wash kit. The seat is spacious and comfortable, with room to lie flat should you wish.  

Who’s who?
 Business men, children, well dressed ladies and, er, drunk festival runners all take Upper. Just like most other situations in life, all strokes of folks afford the luxury of First Class. Great for people watching and if you’re travelling alone, for meeting interesting types at the bar. 

You’re here!
Well wasn’t that a pleasant journey? You’ve eaten, drunk and rested to your hearts content, but now you’ve got to wrestle with immigration. Well yes, you still have to pass through Control, but a separate queue and first dibs to leave the plane means you’re swept through easily.

Flying Upper will revolutionise your flying experience. Even turbulence didn’t worry me, snuggled into my spacious Upper Class cocoon, there was a feeling that nothing could harm me. A few bumps? Just knock back another whiskey, turn up your in-flight cinema and admire the view. And for a marathon runner like me, the extra room for stretching pegs, was the icing on a very delicious cake.

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