You got to “tab”it out!

Tactical Advance to Battle, aka “tabbing.”

I will always remember my first tabbing session. With a group of fellow Regiment Fitness members, around two years ago, I attended a training session for WAR Adrenaline Race (featured in my Blog earlier this year). During the session we were issued with Bergens, almost the same length as me, that weighed between 15-20kgs – then told to run! Run as fast as your legs could possibly go.

This took my training, at the time, beyond levels I have ever experienced. With the Bergen half way down my legs it was almost impossible to run. I was bent over double with the weight of the contents and every single part of me was screaming!

A few weeks later, I attended a further session dedicated only to “tabbing.” In this one, at times we had to wear two Bergens; your own along with a member of your team’s over your chest. If I thought my body was screaming last time, then this time round it was off the chart.

Although it was the hardest training I have ever experienced and I felt like crying for the whole hour, I kept booking sessions.

Eventually fellow tabbers and myself discovered the “short back Bergens” – designed for the shorter person, like me! We purchased these beauties and found that the tabbing sessions were more bearable as we were not spent most the hour bent over double.

So, with the comfort of my own short back Bergen, packed out with pillows and heavy weights I started to enjoy the beasting we experienced on the tabbing sessions.

Over the last two years myself and other boot camp members have travelled far and wide before day light on a Saturday morning. And on a few occasions, participated in a number of “night” tabs all in the aid to increase our fitness levels.

Tabbing sessions are not easy. They are most definitely not for the faint hearted and designed to push you beyond your limits. I have lost count on the number of tabbing sessions I have taken part in over the last two years, but I would like to describe myself as a “well seasoned tabber.” I am never at the front of the pack, nor the back. Usually I am in the middle encouraging those struggling behind me.

11666303_1461006364215423_3680341710279377094_n (1)

At the beginning of this year, myself and two others decided to take part in a double tabbing session back to back. This consisted of a two our tabbing session at 7pm on a Friday evening followed by two hours at 6am the following morning. I was at my fitness peak and we completed the Friday and the Saturday without any major issues (though the Saturday morning was rather tedious – due to achy muscles and fatique).

Then disaster struck for me not long after. I developed pneumonia – so training was out and tabbing was a definite no no.

It took a very long time for me to get the courage to return back to tabbing after my illness. My confidence was gone and I was worried about being at the back, slowing the pack down. However, as I started getting stronger again I decided to take the plunge and get back into it. Not wanting to over do it, weight was removed from my Bergen to ensure I did not overdo it on the first session back.

So at the beginning of June, I took the plunge back into the tabbing world. It was tough, it felt like my lungs were going to explode – but I plodded along and would like to think I kept up.

I have continued to participate in as many sessions as possible since. So, when our trainer – Jonny – advertised a 90 minute session I thought “why not?”

I arrived yesterday morning to discover only five people had booked on. Me, the only female, and four other long legged runners. I knew straight away it was going to be a session that was going to make or break me.

Within 30 minutes it had broken me. I was struggling to keep up with the guys and loosing confidence with every step. Every session I had participated in before had someone slower, someone who needed me to encourage behind me. This time I looked back and there was no one. When I looked ahead all I could see was dust from the fast runners in front.

I wanted to quit, head back and I told Jonny so. But he and all the other guys refused to let me give in. They pushed me on and on. Hill sprints followed, where I thought my lungs were going to burst, my legs fall off and I actually thought I would pass out. The final push up these hills broke me. I had a wobble, I broke down, I cried and had a mini panic attack.

Sensing my distress, Jonny sent the guys off running round a field whilst I recovered myself. Then we were off again. The final section of the session – up Hadham Road! If anyone lives in Bishops Stortford or knows the area you would be aware of this road. It is the most horrendous incline you would ever come across as a runner. It looks like nothing from the bottom; but goes on for what seems like miles. Running this incline without a Bergen would be a challenge enough. With the Bergen, I wanted to die – or hide in a bush.

The struggle and pain at this point was indescribable. The guys were off and I was trotting like a baby elephant miles behind. But Jonny would not let me give up. Everytime I felt myself slowing myself to a walk he appeared to spur me on; telling me to “stop shaking my head.”

Eventually we made it back; my legs burning, lungs exploding, mind blowing, half dead!

This tabbing session was the hardest thing I have had to done for a while – and I had not long ago completed Mission 24!

13668793_1640779882904736_3386891731520020349_o

The lesson learnt this time round; there is always more you can give. The mind can play amazing tricks on your body. It will make you think you cannot go on, that you cannot give anymore. But lucky for me this time, Jonny and all the other guys training knew I could give more even when I couldn’t see it myself. I may not have been able to go fast – but I could get to the end.

This day showed that there are days when getting through to the finish is hard. The only thing I can advise is train with people who you know will drive you on, push you to your limits and be there to give you a hug when you break down.

For PCOS Sake!

Slightly off my usual fitness and training posts, however I felt it was time to discuss an issue that is important to me and something I have struggled with for the past sixteen years.

Polycystic Overy Syndrome (PCOS).

At the tender age of 16 I was diagnosed with PCOS. Having to go through the variety of tests at such an age was completely terrifying and rather embarrassing. Can you image – being sixteen, not knowing what this “PCOS” was or meant and being sent to the maternity ward of your local hospital for a scan? Being surrounded women in their twenties, thirties and forties looking at you, knowing that they thought you were a knocked up teenager? Horrifying! Plus, with an absent Mother to join me on such appointments it was a pretty scary ordeal to face alone. But I did and after many, many tests and specialists; it was confirmed – I has PCOS and the Doctors did nothing further, other than put me on the Pill. I was told at the time I don’t need to see them again until I wanted to discuss children. At sixteen; that meant nothing to me. So with the Doctors not being too concerned and no further support offered I went on my merry way.

My teens were spent not thinking about it at all, in my twenties I started to think about it a little more and event went so far to by some support books so I could spend more time reading about what I face. Safe to say the books went un-touched and gathered a great deal of dust sitting on the shelf. However, it has only been in my thirties that I have really started to realise I need to pay much more attention to the condition.

This is for a number of reasons. Firstly, as I have got older I have discovered that a number of friends and even my sister also suffer from the same thing – so it is a lot more common than i originally thought. Secondly, now that I am in my thirties one of the side effects of PCOS is really starting to get to me…..The struggle with weight loss.

You may be thinking, “What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome”? PCOS, as it is known, is a common condition that effects the way in which a Woman’s ovaries work. The main features of this condition are Irregular Periods, excess androgen (high levels of male hormones in the body – JOY) and Polycystic Ovaries (ovaries become enlarged and contain follicles which surround the eggs).

So what does this mean? It means that someone with PCOS will have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Irregular Periods
  • Fertility Issues
  • Excessive Hair Growth
  • Weight Gain
  • Thinning Hair
  • Acne/ Oily skin
  • Thinning hair loss from the head

Plus further down the line PCOS suffers have greater risk of developing more serious conditions like Type 2 Diabetes and High Colesterol.

So we get all the fun!

I have lots of friends who struggle with different symptoms. The most heart breaking being the infertility issues. For me, that doesnt cause too much concern. I knew my chances were very small early on, so I have dealt with that and enjoy my childless life.

My biggest problem with PCOS is the weight gain, or in my case the inability to loose weight; despite constanty training and leading a relatively healthy vegetarian diet.

So after reading several books, which I found rather useless, I started researching online and stumbled upon PCOS Diet Support. This site was founded by someone who had PCOS. So unlike the many books I read, most likely written by someone without the condition, it was refreshing to hear from someone with experience.

I discovered an article written here about having PCOS and eating Gluten foods. I suppose it is not that much of a shock to find out that the two do not mix. Accoring to research Gluten Free diets are highly recommended for someone with PCOS. Gluten foods play havoc on an already inbalanced hormonal system, could possibly cause a spike in insulin levels and if Gluten intolerant could contribute to Insulin resistance.

So, in order to get my insulin levels right and in the hope of being able to control my weight better I have made the decision to change my eating habits and remove gluten from my diet.

Although I have never been a big pasta or bread person there are so many foods that contain gluten that I never realised. This week has been a big learning curve for me. The obvious foods have not been a problem, but as a vegetarian I was shocked to discover that most Quorn products (from which I get most my protein from) contain some form of gluten.  A lot more attention is going to have to be paid to food packets in order for me to be able to change my eating habits and be as Gluten Free as I can possibly be.

I know it is going to be difficult, but luckily I have a few friends who are already Gluten Free and have made the change. So all I can do is follow advice I have been given and read the labels of everything I buy.

I am hoping to make some serious progress in the next few months and I will be sure to document it when I can.

Wish me luck!

Mission Complete

In September 2015 I took part in the first ever Mission 24 event run by Regiment Fitness. A 24 hour boot camp event, where one member of your team of four has to take part in each session.  Certainly not for the faint hearted. But as a team we worked through and I personally managed ten sessions out of the twenty four. It was the most emotional event I have ever taken part in and as soon as we were done I stated adamantly that “I would never do it again.”

So fast forward to 2nd July 2016, and guess what? I was taking part in my second Mission 24. This time we had two teams of three, meaning there would be less chance for rest and more hard work needed to get through the night.

This year I felt that I was going in knowing what to expect, I wasn’t completely blind sighted as I was in the first event. I made lots of adjustments in my preparation this time round. In the days leading up to Mission 24, I cut back on training (as agonising as it was), I planned what food I would have and I prepared the whole of my boot camp wardrobe; including winter clothing, Dry Robe and multiple pairs of trainers.

After a quickly setting up our tents on arrival it was soon time to begin. At 10am the first session started. I think everyone signed up to the event was taking part in this session as I remember there being bodies everywhere. It was clear that there were so many more participants than the previous year.

As expected, with the sun shining the first few sessions were full of enthusiasm. Everyone was full of energy and excitement. Knowing what would be coming later, I decided from the get go to take it easy; it was going to be a long 24 hours after all.

13620146_1070302533063311_7156949326540526683_n

So the next session I decided to sit out; reassess and observe everything that was going on. Originally I had planned an hour on and then an hour off. However, that plan soon went to pot as after resting for the second session I did two in a row. The fourth session I got in a quick power nap; to then smash out four on a trot.

My plan was caput!

I started to mark out the sessions I wanted to do take part in, avoiding any Tabbing sessions to conserve energy and worked out that if I got into the right mind set I could end up completing many more sessions than I had previously. So, that’s what I did. I knew that as soon as the night hours came, I would not be able to keep warm or be able to sleep, so I kept going.

 

After a brief break around 7pm, when the keen Tabbers did their thing, I took an hour break. Then, smashing out four more sessions it was midnight. At this point I had reached ten sessions, the same amount I had completed in 2015.

Perhaps some adrenaline had kicked in and it gave me a second wind or I was high as a kite from the lack of rest, who knows. But I planned in three more sessions that would take me up to 4am.

13529203_10157216823940604_7477481533287952280_n

It was during the 3am session that the pain and the exhaustion kicked in. I felt like I was drunk, my run was more like a shuffle and I was half asleep whilst boxing with another team member. I had worked myself to the point where I would just pass out; which I did. Perfectly timed as a third tabbing session was due to take place.

After a brief, but very effective power nap, I was back to it again at 6am, completing the final five sessions to bring my total to 18 out of 24.

Mission Complete!

 

Throughout the 24 hours we received a great deal of support from fellow members, family and friends. However, we also got the standard question….Why? My answer was “why not?”

When I look back to think what we had done, some of us for a second year in a row, I could see why people would think we were completely mad. The whole experience is something that you can’t really explain, especially to those who are less active.

Even now, as I write this blog I struggle to find the words to illustrate this event. There is nothing you can say to make people understand the emotion you feel from being awake for over 24 hours, pushing yourself beyond any limits you thought you may have had and getting through some of the darkest possible hours. It is the ultimate test for your mind, endurance and fitness. I have had so many people tell me “I’m not normal” – perhaps that is the case, but during this event I was surrounded by people who were doing the same as me. So, does that mean that none of us are normal? I don’t think so.

What I saw from this event was a group of like-minded people who are willing to sign up to a challenge and throw themselves whole heartedly into completing it. It is not easy, no one ever said it would be. But some wise person once said “if it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great!”

 

As I come to a close I remember that feeling of finishing and accomplishing what you thought was impossible. I may not be the fittest or the fastest of the bunch, but when an old friend calls you “The Female Terminator” you feel pretty fantastic!

c1b99123fc26efa6437395cb356b26e7

Hatfield Broad Oak  – “It’s Only 10K”

On the May bank holiday i took part in the Hatfield Broad Oak 10K Road Race for the second year running. I was particularly excited about this one as in 2015, after years of no running I took part and got a PB of 62 minutes. This year I was hoping because I had run it before and I had just completed a Half Marathon, the race would be a piece of cake.

Maybe I had got a little cocky thinking “it’s only 10k” and therefore I didn’t focus in the week leading up to the race. But I know for certain I got a number of things wrong this time round.

13321959_10157076109665604_3021272254016712173_n

Drinking the night before! In the run up to Hackney Half Marathon I was very sensible. I stopped drinking. Even though some nights, when the sun was shining and all i craved was a glass of wine in the garden – I stopped myself. I had self control. In the lead up to HBO it was the Bank Holiday weekend with some rather satisfying weather. So, i drank on the Friday night, the Saturday night and even on the Sunday night. The night before the race, I had two big glasses of wine. Yes “My Name is Gemma and i’m a Wino.”

Dehydration – a big issue for any runner. Safe to say due to my lovely wine the night before and having less water than I normally would over the whole weekend, I was rather dehydrated come Monday morning. Instead of hydrating before the race I had sips of water – paranoid that I would need the toilet 50 times. I also did away with my hydration belt. I think my words were (again) “It’s only 10k – I’ll be fine.” How wrong I was. That first 5k without water and having to run up the hill into the village to get the water, was a killer. I was gasping by the time I reached the water station and barely able to drink it.

Breakfast the most important meal of the day. In recent months I have managed to get the pre run breakfast almost right; mixing up between Bagels with Peanut Butter, Porridge or Greek Yoghurt with honey depending on how long I would be running for. On the morning of HBO, everything went out the window. My breakfast was a glass of orange juice – I couldn’t stomach anything else. Big error, no wonder I felt that the tank was empty very soon after we set off!

Over Training! It has always been a big problem of mine. I tend to go for quantity over quality which results in me being over tired and not being able to give the job at hand 100%. The day before this race not only did I complete a Boot Camp session but I also went out for a run in the evening too. Now, I did run the day before the half marathon – which was more about stretching my legs and getting rid of any nerves. It definitely helped, so running before the HBO 10k wasn’t the issue. The problem was Boot Camp. After running round doing such exercises as Jerry Can pushes and burpees (to name a few) one is bound to feel that in the legs the next day.

So as you can see, I had a fair idea of how the race was going to pan out. My mind was not in it and my body clearly wasn’t ready for it. But you live and learn. I know for a fact that I can run this one faster – I did it in 2015. So, I cannot say I can’t run that fast. And I know I made a number of mistakes which led to poor performance.

I need to take this as a lesson to myself and learn from my mistakes, listen to my body and just be sensible in the run up to these events.

So, this Sunday (19th June) I have another 10k race at Hatfield Forest, which will be slightly more undulating as it is a trail run. Something I have not done before – unless it involves obstacles. I don’t expect to see a PB. But what I am expecting to see is a significant improvement in myself. Not just speed, but also mind set and preparation.

I need to bring back the positive mental attitude and strength I had this time last year. Once it returns I know I could up my game. The only issue is the mind is the hardest muscle to train……

bb0fcca6e9555461ebb544bd01021196

Regiment Fitness Adventure Weekend

I’ve never been one for Camping. The idea of lying in a tent in the middle of a field has never really held much appeal. However, when Regiment Fitness first advertised an Adventure Weekend which involved “Glamping” I thought, let’s give it a go. To be honest my mind by passed the Glamping element when I saw the list of activities we would likely be taking part in.

Packing for this adventure was particularly difficult. Not knowing what to expect I did not really know what I should bring. Packed in three bags was my hair dryer, straighteners, multiple fluffy blankets and socks and a whole range of Boot Camp gear and outfits. Safe to say, the majority went un-used – no chance of straightening my hair when there was not a plug socket in sight!

Three days had been planned out from Friday to Sunday. Early Friday morning we set off in a Mini-Bus, for the trip down to Swanage, Dorset. The small intimate group of us (ten in total) arrived at Herston Camp site (not without getting lost of course) shortly after lunch. After a quick stop we were off to our first activity, Coasteering!

13339510_10157098407725604_3552138317019158656_n

Coasteering was the activity I was most terrified of, after researching and watching videos. However, the instructors at Land and Wave, were very experienced in their field and immediately put all of us at ease. Climbing down the rocks to the coast at “Dancing Ledge” was a challenge, but with expert instructions we all managed it without any injuries. Our first jump was tamer than I expected, but I learnt later that they were building us up to the big one. To be honest, my concern was how cold the water was going to be rather than the first jump itself. And it was, so shockingly cold.

Once we were over the shock of jumping in we were off, with the instructors ensuring we were sticking together. Due to low tide they were able to guide us through many caves, some dark and scary and others open to the waves. Everyone in the group had smiles on their faces throughout. The grand finale for the session was the big jump. Under guidance we all climbed the cliff edge to the biggest jump of the day. Standing on the edge, spending too much time thinking about jumping – I chickened out. However, most of the group were brave enough to throw themselves of the ledge.

All high on adrenaline we made the climb and walk back to the mini bus to head back to camp, where our caterers – Crab Apple – were waiting with dinner. The evening was spent drinking round the camp fire until the early hours of the morning.

Day two saw us head up to the woods for Bush Craft; learning to make fires, spears and general knife skills. After a lovely picnic lunch, from Crab Apple, we spent the afternoon making spears, Axe Throwing and Archery.

After we mastered new skills we were on our merry way back to camp, taking time to stop at the local Corfe Castle for a walk around and drink. After which we headed out into Swanage town to hit the night life. Lots of drinking and dancing into the early hours, followed by more time round the campfire.

On Sunday, the final day of adventure, we made our way down to the beach – sore heads a plenty – for our final activity, Paddle Boarding. Within moments of being on the boards many of the group were up on our feet – must be down to our super strong cores from Boot Camp! I personally managed to paddle board on my feet numerous times, before falling dramatically into the water.

13339497_10157098411300604_8024495882001003562_n.jpg

In no time at all our session was over and it was almost time to head back to blighty, not before a cheeky fish and chips on the sea front mind!

The weekend as a whole was an incredible rush for me. I was, as were many others, were still buzzing the next day. But it’s not just the adrenaline I was buzzing from but also the fact that I had spent a weekend in such amazing company, 90% of who I had not met before. My abs were aching more from laughing than they would on an Ab session.

This is another occasion, for me, where Regiment Fitness has led me meet some incredible people and all of which I would keep in contact. Some of us had so much fun we are already eagerly anticipating the next one.

The activities were great, the food was fantastic and the company even better. Would I go again? Without question! If Regiment Fitness decide to run this again I strongly advise you not to miss this opportunity. Life is all about experiences and this was definitely that.

Just one word of advice – don’t leave the Go Pro at home!

Flying High

My main focus for my Blog from the get go was to document the training and events I take part in. However, as it is labelled “Adventures of Gemma” every now and then an adventure comes about that is sooooooo amazing I can’t help but share.

For 11 years I have worked for Red Letter Days, with the majority of these years spent working in Online Marketing. Therefore, during this time it is fair to say that I have had my share of “experiences”. The perks of the job have enabled me to attend many fancy Black Tie events, take part in Power Boating on the Thames, a Helicopter Tour of London, Sushi Making, Dinner at Mosimanns, Quad Biking, Clay Pigeon Shooting, numerous Afternoon Teas and Spa Days – this is just to name a few. Lets’ just say that although my employment at Red Letter Days has pushed me to breaking point at the worst times, there have been many, many opportunities where I have experienced things that many people my age would only dream of.

After 11 years and many experiences I never thought I would encounter an experience that would go so far and completely blow me away. But last night, I was.

A few months ago our CEO met with one of our biggest Affiliate partners, Voucher Cloud and decided that it would be great to have an evening in Bristol for a Hot Air Balloon Flight. Not only are they based in this lovely city but also the makers of our Red Letter Days Balloons and our experience Partner, Bailey Balloons are also in the area.

I never imagined that the flight would go ahead. Many, many Hot Air Balloon flights get cancelled due to our precarious English weather. In the lead up to the day I tried not to get too excited in order to prepare myself for the flight being cancelled. That did not stop me checking the weather on an hourly basis, paying more attention that usual to wind direction.

The morning of Thursday 26th May was bright, sunny and the sky was completely cloudless. We made our way to Bristol, still baring in mind that at any minute the flight could be cancelled.

At around 3pm, it was confirmed. The weather was perfect. We were going up in the Balloon. I was part terrified and buzzing with excitement.

Bailey Balloons picked us up from Bristol in their Land Rovers. When we turned the corner and saw them waiting for us I remember hearing people cheering with excitement. The Basket was attached to a trailer on one of the Land Rovers and the Balloon itself packed safely in the other.

13263734_10157060405850691_7437264908938024922_n

We were driven 30 minutes away to Victoria Park in Bath. I had never been to Bath before, so the fact that the first time I will see it would be from a basket floating in the sky was so amazing.

On arrival at the park we were surrounded by Balloons – with locals hardly batting an eye lid. Apparently this is a regular occurrence in the area. Including the Red Letter Days balloon, there were three ballooons being prepared for flight.

Clive and his team immediately got us involved in preparing the Balloon. When we sell these packages at Red Letter Days, nothing is mentioned about this. But suppose it is optional to assist. Our group were more than happy to help. It was fascinating to watch the process.

13254041_10157061395230604_4066073120699883367_n.jpg

After around 2o minutes the Balloon was ready. Clive had already briefed us as to how to get in the Balloon, the position we need to be in for take off and what to expect in between.

And the next thing we know we were going up. With so many people waving and cheering from below.

The fear left me completely as soon as we were able to stand. The feeling of floating through the air is something I can not describe. It is something that I recommend everyone experiencing for themselves. There is such a high from being so high up in a basket and open air. The views, the sunset, the euthoria………Within 10 minutes of being in the air I had reached the tranqulity you would get from having an hour long massage. The Spa Days and Afternoon Teas I had been on………..so mainstream, anyone can massage you. Ballooning is where it is at! How many people do you know can fly a Hot Air Balloon?

 

Clive was amazing. He certainly knew his stuff, turning the Balloon where needed to ensure that we can get pictures; he even had a camera attached to the Balloon that extended so we could get a “Selfie” in the air.

001

Before we knew it, it was time to land. Except, Clive had to find a suitable place to do so. Well known in the area, he has landed in many a Farmers field. Which is what we did. Apparently landing in Hot Air Balloon it is very common for the basket itself to land on its side – which I was very apprehensive about. However, despite landing on a slight hill, in a Farmers field, the basket remained upright!

 

Once we had been given clearance from Clive we got out the basket and before we knew it the Land Rovers had found us. Packing away the Balloon commenced – which is not for the faint hearted. A Balloon that carried up to seventeen passengers including the Pilot takes some work to pack away. Team work required! With the promise of bubbles the team got to work packing the Balloon away under instruction.

Finally as the sun was going down the team pulled out a cooler full of Beer and Champagne. Together, still buzzing and on a high, we toasted our adventure.

13254189_10153495542271176_7095652938709513769_n

The experience will stay with me for the rest of my life. How many people can get to say they have flown in a Hot Air Balloon? It is definitely a “once in a lifetime” experience. Finding something that will surpass this in my lifetime will be particularly difficult – maybe I have to up my game on the adventure stakes………

 

 

 

Hackney Half Marathon

Sunday 8th May. Weather forecasted as 25 degrees. The hottest day of 2016 so far. What a fantastic day to chill in the garden with some Prosecco soaking up the sun.

Except I wasn’t doing that. Instead I was taking part in my second half marathon!

Leading up to the event; I did everything right. I got the training runs up to 11 miles, I cut down on boot camp sessions to ensure my legs were fresh for my runs and I hydrated until my body couldn’t take any more water.

13178804_1736422679933892_6126495923531976454_n

The day before the event itself Run Hackney sent out a warning; due to the high temperatures coming our way participants should not expect a personal best. Now I knew I would not be hitting a PB. After my ailments this year I am still not up to strength – so simply managing to take part and complete the race was my goal.

Which is what I did. Hands down, the Hackney Half Marathon was the hardest race I have faced to date. From the get go I struggled with the heat; drinking all the water I had within the first 2 miles. It took some time to find my pace (or trot) too – which seems to be a common occurrence on race days for me. During training I have no problem, I just trot away. However; as soon as I am surrounded by thousands of runners the trot goes to pot!

That said, I managed to find a slow and gentle pace once the crowds had thinned out, slowing down to a fast walk when the heat was getting too much then back to a run.

I stayed with this walk/ run pace throughout the race. Pushing myself when I needed to and slowing down when it was a bit too much. And and times it was a bit too much. It was a really tough race.

13177387_1736422666600560_3769176412689414140_n

However, it has to be one of the most enjoyable runs I have experienced. The community spirit was amazing. Every street was lined with Hackney residents drinking outside their houses and pubs and bars; offering Jelly Babies and shouting words of encouragement to all runners – not just those they knew. Around the Hackney Empire the streets were bustling. Steel drums were being played, choirs were belting out some tunes. They even went as far as connecting hoses to spray us as we went past. Such a simple thing to do, but such a welcome relief from the heat. Every runner was running through the water – myself included. The residents deserve medals themselves as their encouragement gives the run such an amazing atmosphere.

13226914_1736422673267226_3367141296527844057_n

Around mile 9 I had my own cheering squad – something that I have never had at a race before. My two friends, Rachel and Charlotte, who live locally were on one of the quieter streets cheering other runners whilst waiting for me. Seeing them in the crowd was so uplifting – giving me the push I needed to keep going at that point. After taking some Jelly Babies they offered I was on my merry way again (choking back a little sob for seeing them).

The sights I saw after mile 10 were shocking and makes me thankful that I listened to the advice Run Hackney had given as well as listening to my own body. The number of runners who had passed out, receiving medical treatment from the 10th mile through to the finish was unbelievable. The majority seemed to be those who looked super fit, people you would not expect to fall were dropping like flies. St Johns Ambulance had their hands full and deserve a great deal of credit for their work that day.

13161851_1736421833267310_7260038514151608539_o

When I finally made it back to the Olympic park the heat was something else. With no shade, runners were totally exposed. At this point (around mile 11-12) there were more people walking than running.

Me? I kept trotting. At every water station I made sure I took two bottles of water; one to sip from and the other went over my head. So soaked from heat to toe I got through those last difficult miles slowly and sensibly – finally passing over the finish line in 2 hours 46 minutes. 26 minutes over my previous half marathon; but after so many thought I would not be able to compete I was extremely happy with the effort.

13161845_1736421849933975_5158356326058662296_o

There are not many races that I would run again; mainly due to the fact that I don’t like to know what’s coming, but the Hackney Half Marathon is definitely one I would repeat. I have already pre registered for next years event. Hoping to train hard, get my strength back to where it was at the end of 2015 and improve on my time.

With such amazing community spirit in Hackney, not running the Half Marathon next year would be missing out.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Gemma-Crozier3

Warrior Adrenaline Race (WAR)

Its been one week since I took part in WAR for the second time. Hosted by Regiment Fitness this one was set in the beautiful grounds of Woodhall Estate, Hertford.

After my warm up the week before at the Gauntlet Games I was more than ready for this one. Originally I had signed up for the 20K route, but after the health issues I had this year I felt that it would be “sensible” to reduce this to the 10K – which is still challenging enough.

12970792_10156789523840527_3297823275755878367_o

The event didn’t disappoint, plenty of man made and natural obstacles to conquer. More than the usual amount of rivers to get through, boggy swamps, walls, cliffs and ropes to climb – lots to keep you entertained throughout.

13092081_10156938106435604_5322990152997166597_n

The spirit around the course was amazing. Lots of team work going on, with other competitors helping others they had never met before. It really shows how amazing these events can be; it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from there is always someone to give you the hand or the shove you need to get over the obstacles.

13092143_10156938106430604_333977831816912262_n

One small factor we all missed was the lack of Spectators. In previous WAR events spectators had the opportunity to see us round 70% off the course, taking plenty of embarrassing pictures en route. Due to the vast grounds at the Woodhall Estate there were not as many opportunities for loved ones this time round. And sadly the camera man didn’t picture me at my favourite obstacle – which is a shame.

That said, we still all had a great time. Its always fun when you partake in these events as a group.

13072758_10156789525190527_4824082434538430180_o

If you are looking to sign up to an OCR event I would thoroughly recommend training sessions at Fit4OCR. I managed to throw myself at obstacles this time round due to the fact that I have had several training sessions with them. Thanks to Fit4OCR I am now able to complete Monkey Bars too (though as yet not at a OCR event itself).

13087450_10156938106335604_2592085334219512092_n

So, that brings a little break to the OCR events for a while; with Bear Grylls scheduled for August and Commando Series in November. However I shan’t be winding down. As I write this I am constantly thinking about my training plans for the week. With Hackney Half Marathon less than a week away there is no rest for the wicked!!

Plus there is plenty to keep me occupied after Hackney too.

The show must go on after all.

https://www.justgiving.com/Gemma-Crozier3

FullSizeRender

 

The Gauntlet Games

Saturday 16th April saw me partake in my third event of the year, The Gauntlet Games. The first since my run in with Pneumonia.

Getting back into the swing of things in the last 8 weeks have been particularly difficult. The Gauntlet Games was a great way to pave my way back into the OCR world without causing myself any set backs or injuries.

Set in grounds in Hertfordshire the “obstacle” race was very mild in comparison to what I am used to.

13043215_10156764870745527_8349439134952265155_n

With a group of Boot Camp pals; Jo, Dan and Emily, we set about the 10K course early on Saturday morning.

For those who have never participated in an obstacle event or feel nervous at the thought of entering such event I would highly recommend The Gauntlet Games. With the multitude of “bouncy”, fun obstacles participants more likely to get a face full of foam than collect “OCR Kisses”.

For some this would be spot on. For me, and those I was running with, it was not enough. When you have participated in the likes of Nuclear Races, WAR adrenaline Race or Tough Mudder this will be a walk in the park for you.

SWING_0569

Yes, the terrain is challenging with its numerous hills and cross country running, but I needed more.

That said, it was a great way to warm myself back up. Earning myself an easy medal to add to my Bling in the process.

12986983_10156908438670604_231586739396501514_n

I may be regretting my words as the next event is fast approaching. WAR adrenaline race takes place on Saturday 23rd April.

As much as I would like to say I will be attacking this with full gusto; I still have to remember that I have to be sensible and not take risks that would cause a set back. After the scare I had I would rather skip an obstacle than do something that would effect my health.

Watch this space for photos and a run down of the event!

https://www.justgiving.com/Gemma-Crozier3

Pneumonia is not funny!!

So, it has been some time since my last post; where I was relishing in a post race glow after the British Heart Foundation Olympic Park 10K.

Since beginning my blog I have made several mentions to the fact that, at times, training had been a struggle in 2016. Shortly after the run at the Olympic Park, I found out the reasons behind this.

A few days after the 10k I went out with training buddies Jo and Becky to attempt a pace run. From the get go I struggled to breathe; I barely uttered a word the whole way round.

During a couple more runs during the same week I had the same issues, on one in particular I experienced pains in my side – which I assumed was a stitch.

Later that night, after suffering from severe pains in my side and chest I made my way to a&e. Several hours later I was diagnosed with a Chest Infection and advised to rest. For someone who doesn’t do “rest” well; this was a challenge. However, I did as I was told. Only on the following Monday afternoon I was back in a&e after the pain became so agonising I could not breathe, stand, sit or walk without crying.

10 painful hours later I was diagnosed with Pneumonia. Both lungs had become so infected that the pain I was experiencing was a result of Pleurisy; my lungs had become so inflamed that they were pressing against the skin causing the pain and trouble breathing. Luckily as I was young, generally fit and well, I was able to be treated at home on IV antibiotics three times a day. So in other words – HOUSE ARREST. No training, no working – just Nurses and rest; which was a challenge in itself due to the Pleurisy – I could not lay down to sleep. I couldn’t attempt the stairs – so the sofa became my friend.

I ended up on house arrest for 10 days. At this stage, due to inactivity, a Chest X-ray showed that part of my lung had become deflated. So I was told to “get active” again. Immediately I thought “fantastic” – let’s go running, but quickly realised that if stairs and a simple walk round the shops was an issue then running was a long way off.

A few days later I was discharged from hospital care. I was free! So that weekend I attempted Boot Camp for the first time in weeks……Which made me realise it was going to be a long recovery.

Just over two weeks have passed since I was discharged. In this time I have had so many people lecture me and give me the “I told you so” look. Most assume that I got Pneumonia due to the fact that I train too much. This is completely incorrect. I had a cough that didn’t go away – as a result my immune system was weak and I picked up a virus which led to Pneumonia. Yes, I could have paid more attention to the way I felt leading up to being diagnosed. But, then again, I would have still assumed It was a cough I could not shake.

Am I fully recovered now? No way. I am slowly improving now that I am back at Boot Camp and running again. I still have pain In my chest if I take a deep breath and my heart rate goes through the roof when I run; which means that training for the line up of events is proving extremely difficult. Many have said “maybe you shouldn’t do this event, that event” but I don’t agree. I am still mobile – if it means I have to go at a slower pace and take longer to finish so be it. I will complete all events I have signed up for in 2016, just for now I will not expect personal bests!

I’m sure many people who have suffered with any injury will sympathise that getting back to your fittest is tough. Its frustrating. For me there have been many tears – before, during and after my diagnosis.

Not only do I have to re train my legs and my mind – but also my lungs. I have to remember my limitations and forget what the person next to me is doing. It is going to be a struggle in the coming weeks, but I will get there.

But I will not give up because winners do not quit!

 

BHF Olympic Park 10k

So another weekend passes with another race – the British Heart Foundation Olympic Park 10k.

Training leading up to the event was fantastic. I managed two great runs that week. 7 miles on the Tuesday then 4.8 miles on the Thursday in 47 minutes. Instead of throwing myself into training the day before, I actually took advice in, had a rest day and an early night.

Typical English weather moved in on race day. It was cold, windy and wet. Waiting for the race to start was the most agonising lead up ever.

12717795_10153396369541381_2925771236080844336_n

Just after 10:30 we set off. 2 laps round the Olympic Park. From the beginning I pulled back to a pace that I felt comfortable with; gentle and allowing myself to get space between the crowd of runners. It was not an easy one. What I expected to be a flat route turned out to be very undulating. We were directed up and down hills around the Velodrome within the park. Pair this with the weather conditions and we had a challenging 10k run.

As with every run there is the constant battle with mind and body. My legs were going, but my mind was saying “lets just do the one lap.” I did think about finishing at lap one. Races with laps have always been tough for me – probably due to the fact that you see the nice big FINISH line and then think “crap, I have to do that again.” You also know exactly what’s coming. I find that with these races the battle continues all the way to the finish.

But finish I did. My eyes were streaming from the wind, getting a breath was difficult but I pushed through. I got to the home straight and opened up my stride.

Finishing in 55:06 according to my fitbit, which I still don’t quite believe. But I will damn well take it. 12705440_10156618327730604_1705933853223024825_nAs a runner you are constantly learning. With this race in particular I have learnt that you cannot compare your time from race to race. No two are the same. Every race, every terrain and every performance will be different. All you can do is keep training hard, keep putting in the effort, keep moving forward.

 

Accept the days when running seems impossible. The days when it is effortless, just welcome them with open arms.

With no scheduled races until April, I am going to keep pushing through, keep working on my pace and try to believe in myself a little more.IMG_3225 (1)

London Winter Run Series

12662645_10156574071605604_2088843041132323913_n

So, today I completed the London Winter Run Series – 10K.

I have run many 10k races in the last few years, all of which were more challenging than this. However, as many people will know, no matter how many races you have run If you wake up knowing you are “not feeling it” the chances are you will have a bad run.

Today that was exactly what happened to me.

After one month of a chronic cough (which I have chosen to ignore) and restless sleep I woke up this morning over tired and in panic.

All runners, no matter how experienced, will want to constantly beat their best time and have a good race.

From the get go, I was trying to open my stride and make my legs move. No matter how much my mind tried to talk to them, they were having none of it. My legs were dead weights. Heavy and unwilling to move out of the snail pace they were moving at.

The atmosphere around me didn’t help. It was a typical cold, rainy afternoon in London – not that the cold bothered me. My main problem was the number of people at the event. 15,000 runners according to Cancer research.

I had never competed in an event as large as this, mainly sticking to local 10k running events where you have the community spirit and cheer.

The first 15 minutes was full of people barging past; the “competitive runners” trying to get past the steady runner (like myself) knocking into me or running through puddles, regardless of who they were effecting behind.

It didn’t improve much on the way round. My head was constantly arguing with my legs. And i kept thinking “I have run a half marathon – why am I finding this so hard?”

The moral of the story is, no matter how hard you train you DO NOT know how you are going to feel on race day.

All I can advise is don’t let you legs stop, keep going (no matter how fast/slow). You will get the the finish line and there will be someone waiting for you.

Today, as I approached the finish line I spotted one of my Bestie’s Jo, Sarah and Richard waiting for me. I got through the course breathing fine but as soon as I saw them – became a complete wreck. The course was tough for me, but seeing them was a lot tougher.

12661914_10156574373635604_1647220040532528146_n.jpg

People often say to me, you are so fit, you are tough. NO! This is not the case! As today has shown, I have weak moments as everyone else. I am human, I sometimes find the simplest race challenging. The difference is, I pick myself up (drink several bottles of Prosecco) and I look towards the next race.

DO THE SAME!

https://www.justgiving.com/Gemma-Crozier3

12592445_10153374082226381_6958612448618102272_n.jpg