Running Fatigue

So if you haven’t already guessed from the severe lack of fitness-related posts as of late, I’ve been taking a bit of a break from training and running more generally. Following my last race of the year, the Royal Parks Half Marathon, I’ve done exactly zero miles of running.

Since catching the marathon bug in November 2011, I’ve pretty much been in constant training, mostly for running, but also cycling and swimming. Whilst I have done a fair number of really awesome races this past year, I won’t lie and will say that I was somewhat glad to reach the last race of the calendar year as I was feeling tired.

It wasn’t so much of a physical tiredness, but more a mental one. I had stopped training consistently for my races about mid-way through the year and had been winging my last few races as I was burning out. There were a lot of other things happening in my life at the time, and what spare time I had, I just couldn’t bring myself to adhere to yet another schedule.

Burned-out? O yea, 100%. There were just too many races I wanted to do and too many things I wanted to achieve before year end. It didn’t work out and ultimately, I got so tired of having to put my trainers on and run when there were other things I wanted / need to do that I stopped completely. Running had become a chore, rather than an enjoyable activity or an outlet for stress. It was time to take 5 and reassess what exactly it was I was trying to achieve because I wasn’t feeling happy about it.

So what have I been up to since then?

Having recently left my job and as a consequence, having more time to pursue my interests, I have rejoined a gym closer to my flat and have been attending a variety of gym classes. So no activities where I have to motivate myself, but rather ones where I have an instructor and others in the class to push me.

And you know what, I’ve really been enjoying myself. OK, so it’s still a bit hit-and-miss with the classes as I try out the different instructors at the various times and days of the week to see which one I prefer, but I’m rather enjoying my break from running. I’ve mostly been doing spinning, pilates (which I used to do a lot of and am enjoying getting back into) and Body Pump classes, with one or two other classes like Body Combat thrown in. I haven’t been pushing myself to extremes, but take about 1 class a day, 4 or 5 days a week.

Other than that, I’ve been trying to travel around London without the use of public transportation or cars i.e. I’ve mostly only been walking, jogging or cycling around town in an attempt to keep active as much as possible (and save money!). Now that I’ve got more free time, I’m taking the opportunity to live life at a more leisurely pace.

This won’t last for much longer however, as I’ll soon be packing up and heading off to Australasia and Asia within the next two weeks for an indefinite amount of time, likely to be more than 3 months. Though I’ll only be bringing along carry-on luggage, I intend to bring my trainers and a set of running clothes with me. If there comes a day during my travels abroad when I suddenly get an itch to just start running, I’ll go with it. If not, I’m happy to continue on my running hiatus until I really feel the hunger for it once again.

Rest assured this will DEFINITELY NOT be the last you hear about me running, because I received this in my inbox yesterday.

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What’s that? You don’t read German and the text is blurry? O, so it basically says…

I GOT THROUGH THE BALLOT AND WILL BE PARTICIPATING IN THE 2014 BERLIN MARATHON! Woot woot!

The fact that I got so super excited receiving the email was proof to me that I still love running and I’ll be back at it at some point. I’m not sure exactly when that will be, but I am 100% sure that it will be well in time to get going on a good and proper marathon training schedule for Berlin (the race will be in late September). It’s going to be a good one!

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The Royal Parks Half Marathon 2013 – Race Recap

Sorry for the delay on this one! It’s been a busy time recently as I settle into life of the Unemployed. You would’ve thought that it would be the other way round, but it’s funny how suddenly having an unstructured life can make you really lose track of time and become very unproductive! But that’s for another post. I have also been trying to transfer this blog to a new webhost and have been having a lot of difficulty with this. %^$&£! Lot’s of swearing and it’s still not sorted. :(

But anyway, back to running related matters.

You will know from my previous post that I completed 95 miles two Saturday’s ago, and was all set (or not!) to do a half marathon on the following day. From the severe lack of fitness-related posts as of late, you may also have guessed that I was going into the weekend woefully underprepared.

I woke up on race day with some sore and stiff legs and arms. As expected, this was not going to be an easy race. The one good thing I could think of though, was that the start of the race (at Knightsbridge / Hyde Park Corner) was essentially just a short 25 minute tube ride away. As I wasn’t planning on checking in a bag, I could rock up and head straight to the start line, meaning more precious time to sleep and recover.

After a quick breakfast of warm oats, honey and tea, I headed to the Jubilee line. I experienced a bit of a heart sinking moment when I found out that all trains would be terminating at Waterloo and going no further. I had checked for tube disruptions the night before and could’ve sworn that this did not appear! Thankfully, it wasn’t too big of a deal, but it did mean that I arrived literally just in time for the race start.

I rushed through the part of Hyde Park which had been converted into the food and fitness exhibition area for the race. There were also charity tent areas and porta loos set up in the area, all looking well organised and spaced out. This was a world apart compared to the Nike RTTB Half Marathon a month ago.

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You can just about see the porta loos at the back!

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Food & Fitness festival area

I didn’t hang about here for too long though, as I was in danger of missing the start of the race.

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The reason there’s not too many runners about is because they’re already lined up and ready to go!

Nearly everyone was in place and ready to go! Thankfully the superb organisation meant that it was relatively easy to find the start area and my starting corral.

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The fastest group near the front of the start line

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One of the fancier costumed runners

As you can see from the photos, the sun was out. In London? On Race Day? Unheard of surely! It was almost as if Mother Nature knew this was a race for her. ;)

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Mother Nature brought out some lovely weather for the race

As I stood for a short while, regretting my decision not to bring along my Oakleys, the race started and I was soon headed towards the start line. Rather oddly, none of the other runners did a warm-up jog towards the start line. It was “walk walk walk, o here’s the start line, now let’s start running”! This was the first time I had experienced this in a race! Everyone was clearly pretty chilled out. :)

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Heading up towards the start line. Why’s everyone still walking??

The route for the race takes the runners round some of the most famous London landmarks and parks. Couple that with the gorgeous weather and this was literally the best race I have ever had the good fortune of participating in. It was a bit of a shame that I wasn’t in top racing form, but this may have been a blessing in disguise as this did allow me to take things easy, run without pressure and really enjoy my race (essentially what I had set out to do when I found out that I got though the ballot earlier on in the year).

After running by Hyde Park, Wellington Arch and Constitution Hill, we headed towards Big Ben and Westminster Bridge. We were about 2 or 3 miles into the race at this point and I was hurting! I tried not to think about the fact that we still had 10-11 miles to go! Eep!

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Running up towards Big Ben from St. James’ Park

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Doing a loop round Westminster Bridge, with the London Eye in the background

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A better, less blinding view of the Houses of Parliament!

The route then took us down and back up Embankment, before we turned right and headed up towards Trafalgar Square with Nelson’s Column to greet us. Eventhough my legs were feeling tired, I was really enjoying myself. The organisation of this race was top notch, with frequent and consistent sign-posting of the distances covered so far, ample water stations and wide roads which meant no overcrowding and lots of space for all. Like I said, this was the best race I have ever done!

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Running up towards Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column

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Turning left, back towards Green Park

We were soon back running by the Royal Parks – basically the back garden of the tenants of this place…

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Running past Buckingham Palace. Good morning Your Majesty!

I was well distracted by the large crowds cheering the runners on upon our re-entry into Hyde Park. Have I already mentioned how much I was loving this race?

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Into the maddening crowds within Hyde Park! It was mental!

I have to say that things were starting to get difficult at this point. My legs were pretty dead after about 12KM in and I had about 3 energy gels in quick succession to try to get some much needed fuel to my legs. I just kept telling myself not to stop at all costs and somehow managed to keep going. I knew that it would pretty much be game over if I did stop, so no matter how slow I was running, as long as I was moving faster than walking speed, I was doing well.

As I started focussing more and more on my personal pain, I stopped taking photos of my surroundings, hence the lack of any further photos of the race from this point forth!

Whilst my pace was clearly a lot slower than that of my previous half marathons, I was still happy to note that I was managing to pass other runners as I went about my merry way (yes, I am annoyingly competitive). Rather worryingly however, I did also pass quite a number of runners who had passed out or collapsed on the side of the road and were being attended to by the medics. I guess the popularity of this race does mean that there are a lot more “novice” / casual runners in participation which might explain the significantly higher drop-outs compared to other races.

In the meantime, I was doing my best not to join their ranks. The countdown to the end of the race was well and truly on!

With two miles to go, the end of the race was well within my grasp and I summoned all my willpower to finish my race strong and enjoy the remainder of the route. The mass crowds in the last mile really helped to boost my spirits and I somehow found the energy to start running strong at this point. The body is truly a miraculous machine.

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And then it was over!

I saw the finish line and sprinted to the end. I am happy to say, that contrary to what I thought would happen, I did NOT collapse in a heap immediately upon crossing the finish line. I was in fact, extremely happy with how my race had gone, considering the less than ideal circumstances I had entered the race in!

My final time was 2:01:41 – clearly no PB, but I’m well chuffed with that. I will say that this was one probably the hardest weekend (endurance sports-wise) of my life, but also one of the best. I’m going to remember this race for a very long time to come!

I can now understand the popularity of this half marathon and why it is so hard to get a place in it every year. The Royal Parks Foundation also organises an ultra-marathon race on the same day which is something I had planned to sign up for next year, at the beginning for this year. Based on the recent turn of events in my life however and the uncertainty of it all, I no longer feel like it is the right thing to do now, but having now done the half marathon, the ultra is definitely on my race bucket list!

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Someday…but probably not next year

With that ends my 2013 racing season. I am not sure what my next race will be as I am taking it one day at a time at the moment, so let’s see. I feel like I need to regroup and take a bit of a break so that’s what I’m doing for now! :)

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New Forest 100 Epic Sportive – Race Recap

I set a new personal cycling record on Saturday! Unfortunately, I didn’t quite make it the century ride that I wanted, but it was close. So close that I don’t know whether to be happy or upset about it, but let’s take it from the start.

The day started very early, as we woke up, rushed to get our things together, and headed to Waterloo Station to catch the 6.30am train to Brockenhurst. This was the very latest available train that we could catch in order to ensure we made it for the registration of the Epic 100 mile cycle event by 9am. We didn’t eat our breakfast before heading out of the door, opting instead to bring a jar of overnight oats with honey and some chunks of baguettes and butter with us to eat on the 1 hour plus train ride from London.

Post-registration, we were still one of the last ones to depart for our event, although we caught the “early” train. This would have implications later, although we were oblivious to it at this point.

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Contrary to the last time we did this sportive (albeit the shorter, “Standard” 60 mile event), there were a lot more cyclists about, probably due to the fact that it wasn’t raining, cold and windy this time around.

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After prepping my bike up and using the disgusting porta potties, we made our way to the starting area.

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We had to wait a while as groups of riders were given the safety briefing and waved off in batches.

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I didn’t manage to take any more photos after this as I was trying to psych myself up mentally to do this 100 miles, knowing full well how under-prepared I was and how much training I had NOT done (I admit, I did zero training). I was also focused on trying to ride my bike full stop (i.e. trying not to make a fool of myself by for instance, not unclipping out of my pedals).

Whilst the distance was of course, much longer than the same, shorter route sportive I did in spring this year, Saturday’s event was infinitely better. Why? You can read all about the shambles of the last sportive here – it was so bad that they had to cancel the Sunday event, following the horrific conditions on Saturday.

So with no excuses of heavy rain or gusty winds to fall back on, there was nothing to be done but to just press on the best that I could. As I of course knew that my legs were not at all prepared for the pounding they were about to be given over the course of the day (nevermind the fact that I then had to do a half marathon the next day!), I took it slow and steady.

As the first part of the route was shared with the “Short” and “Standard” routes, we were initially surrounded by quite a number of cyclists, all travelling faster than us. We were constantly being overtaken, but that was fine, since they were doing the shorter routes after all.

We soon found ourselves riding solo on the road as soon as we reached the split in the road and took the “Epic” route. I guess there aren’t too many cyclists that decide to take the 100 mile route, and even less that do it without some form of training. As a consequence, I am pretty sure that we were one of the last riders in this group.

No matter. We took our time, riding to the best of our abilities, passing by some really serene parts of the New Forest. Kilometre after kilometre passed and we were soon at the first fuel stop at the 27th mile. After scoffing down on flapjacks, fig rolls and bananas, I made a quick bypass the loo, filled my water bottle up and jumped back on the saddle. It was a little difficult to restart, as the body warms down slightly and you need to get it all revved up again, but we were back on form after about 5KM. It was a little difficult to think that we were only about a quarter of the way through at that point, but the sun was out and all looked good.

The second fuel stop was at mile 54 after a particularly steep, but short hill. We stopped here for a while longer than the first to try to recoup some energy and noticed that a couple of riders had decided to call it a day. Why this was the case, I have no idea, but I’d be lying if I said the thought didn’t cross my mind either. We had been riding for nearly 4 hours at this point and were just over halfway through the route. The prospect of having to ride for over another 4 hours seemed to be pretty ludicrous at that point, but we weren’t going to give up without a fight.

We gingerly sat ourselves back on our saddles and headed off. Without the comfort of a chamois pad in my tights (I was using my tri suit as I don’t have cycling-specific tights), my nether regions were feeling a little sore, and I was pedalling standing up more and more. This also helped to curb the boredom a little, and allowed me to stretch my legs and back out more. I will say at this point that it’s not just the physical demands of doing a 100 miles that is difficult, there is also the boredom of cycling for a 100 miles that you need to contend with. It was fine along certain stretches of quiet road when I could have a conversation with JD, but roads were narrow, single lanes for a lot of the route and we had to be wary of cars so we tended to ride in a single file for the majority of the ride which made it difficult to have a bit of a natter.

At our final fuel stop, with about 24 miles to go, we were told by the marshalls that we were fast running out of daylight and as a consequence, should consider cutting short our route by joining up with the “short” route (about 8 miles further on from the fuel stop point) rather than turning right at the split to take one last final loop towards the end of the course. It didn’t help that visibility was poor due to it being a cloudy day. After a short discussion with JD, we decided to play it by ear to see how we were feeling at that point. We were pretty darn tired already, but were 75% of the way there – it would be a shame not to finish properly!

So on we went, with the day getting darker as the sun went down. We got progressively slower, so it was taking longer to cover the same distance. The marshall was standing at the point of the split in the road and he again encouraged us to take the short cut and make it back to the finish line quicker. He mentioned that he would begin sweeping up the stragglers soon and at the rate we were going, we would probably be swept up in his van shortly, considering how rapidly the sunlight was disappearing.

I guess JD and I didn’t have much of a choice at that point. It should always be safety first after all (we were told that the last loop was filled with narrow windy roads, surrounded by hedgerows), and there will of course be other events in the future. I was absolutely gutted though, considering that the loop was just an additional 10 miles, which after having done 92 (the route was actually 102 miles, not 100), was nothing.

So we plugged on with heavy hearts and crossed the finish line, before heading straight back to the Brockenhurst train station to catch the next train back to London. If we include the distance to and from the train station to the start line, the total distance we would have cycled today would have been approximately 95 miles. The total time we took was about 8 hours. There are of course a few things I can’t help thinking “if only” about, but I guess, big picture, it’s not such a bad result considering the zilch training done and the fact that the longest distance I had ever ridden prior to this was 60 miles.

I didn’t give myself too much time to mope around either, as I had a half marathon to think about the next day! A post will come shortly on how that went on the day after!

Holding Post

Hi guys, how are you all doing?

I know it’s been a while since I last wrote a blog post on Sweaty Escapades. As you will probably have guessed, running, biking and generally just getting good and sweaty isn’t my top priority right now as there are a number of things in my life that currently require a lot more of my attention. If you are interested, you can follow one aspect of that (travel) on my other blog located here.

Fear not though, for I will be back blogging soon on running and cycling, following my last two sporting events for 2013 this weekend. I’ll be ending things with a bang, starting with a 100 mile cycle on Saturday, followed by the Royal Parks Half Marathon on Sunday. Yes, I am crazy, and no, I don’t know what made me do it. Wish me luck folks!

As an aside, look at what I received in the post today. Remember the Nike Run To The Beat Half Marathon I did a month ago, and how lousy it was? Well, it was clear that the organisers had received a wave of negative feedback, so much so that they refunded £10 to each participant AND sent us all black “apology” Nike running shirts with a note. It’s actually quite a nice shirt too. :)

Nike Run To The Beat 2013 black shirt

Nike Run To The Beat 2013 apology shirt

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Nike Run To The Beat 2013 Half Marathon

Today was race day for the Nike Run to the Beat 2013 Half Marathon. Whilst I did run it, I didn’t race it. This race was my sister’s first ever half marathon and I wanted to run alongside her in the event she needed support. As I wasn’t in top racing condition anyway, and as I had done this race twice before already, this was a pretty easy decision to make.

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View of the finish area before the race

This was the right decision to make due to a number of reasons, not all of them good. Let’s take it from the top.

1. This was a poorly organised race

They changed the route and starting point this year, so it was almost like a new race for me again this year. Why they decided to change it, I have no idea, but it wasn’t done very well at all. There were no clear signs anywhere about where you had to go to leave your bags, or where the start line was, or where the organised corrals for the various targets time were. As a result, we wasted time trying to figure out where things were and ended up in the wrong starting position. We were pretty much near the back with the slower runners, which was frustrating. If I had been chasing a time, this would’ve killed me.

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Queueing for the bag drop

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Dropping off the bags

2. Unexpected tardiness

My sister didn’t help matters by showing up a lot later than expected, having missed her alarm clock after only getting 45 minutes of sleep! I guess something must run in the family here as regular readers will know that I too cannot sleep properly before a big race! It didn’t really matter in the end as the race started about 20 minutes later than expected.

Waking up late meant she only managed to eat a bagel before the race. This isn’t necessarily bad, but she didn’t plan to eat anything during the race either. She also hadn’t drunk enough water and it was pretty hot when we started. It was therefore good that I could give her some of my water (I always carry a bottle with me during a race) and also my energy gel (unappetising to her as it was!).

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Waiting for the race to start

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Crossing the start line

3. Change in the route…and not for the best either

As I mentioned above, they decided to change the running route this year. They changed it for the worst. There were numerous sections in the course which were too narrow, either because they only closed one lane in the road, or because we were led round small (barely used?) paths by the Thames. There was one point in the race, at the Royal Artillery Barracks, where it got so bad that athletes had to wait almost 5 minutes to start running again. What resulted were a number of athletes (I guess chasing target times) jumping the barrier (into oncoming traffic!) just to bypass the blockage. It was absolutely ridiculous and it shouldn’t have happened.

Also, the last few kilometres ended in runners having to run up a relatively steep hill. While not strictly “bad”, the anti-hills runner in me really hated this!

4. Inadequate water stations

For whatever reason, there were only water stations on one side of the route. Not the end of the world, but it doesn’t help make things smooth for the runners as everyone hops across to one side to make a grab at the cups. Also, there were no sports drinks on offer at all, at any point. It’s not that I need it personally, but this is the first time I’ve ever run a race without a sports drink option.

5. Poor music stations

Considering music was one of the key attractions for this race, it was pretty poor. Some stations didn’t even play music. Others were just way too soft. Not the biggest point sure, but still.

6. Cheerleading

This made up for everything though. The last 5 kilometres were tough for my sis. She wanted to stop but I wouldn’t let her – this was what I was here to do today! I cheered her along and pushed her to keep going…and she did! I’m super happy for her! Hopefully this race will be the first of many for her (especially since this was by no means the best half marathon experience for a newbie). :)

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Looking back at the finish line after crossing it

Unsurprisingly, we were not the only ones who were unhappy with today’s race, as people took to the Run to the Beat Facebook page to vent their frustrations following an apology from the race organisers.

Did you run this race today? What did you think about it? What is the most poorly organised race you have ever ran?

Nike Run to the Beat 2013 Race Packs

So I received this in the post today.

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Race packs are in for Nike Run to the Beat 2013

I felt a slight sense of dread when I saw this, and it wasn’t just because of the colour of the shirt.

I’m feeling horribly underprepared for this half marathon, but really, I only have myself to blame! With each passing day, it’s feeling more and more as if I’m going to take this one as a leisurely run, rather than an all out PR attempt which would be pretty much be a nigh on impossible dream at the moment.

I set off for a run this evening, ready to do a quick 8-10KM route, but was struck down by a bad case of side stitch in the first 50m. New record? I think so. This at least meant I wasn’t too far from home and only had a short walk back. I’m now pretty sure that the culprit is trying to run on an empty stomach. What’s the science behind this? I have no idea. But having experienced this issue more and more in my recent runs, this does seem to be the underlying constant in all of these run attempts. A bit demoralising but it should hopefully be within my control. I’m glad that I at least managed to get the 29KM or so bike ride in on Sunday as I feel like it’s been way too long since I last had a good sweaty workout!

Since I was all booted and suited with no where to go, I decided to do a bout of foam rolling, stretching, planks, pushups and dips. I managed to do a 35 minute session, my boredom alleviated by a Glee episode that was showing on the telly. I also tried to get my heart racing a little at one point, and started doing some burpees and kick jumps. I must have looked a fool to any of my neighbours looking in through my balcony doors but ah well! It got me realising though, that I really ought to look up some proper circuit training sets that I can train at indoors for the next time this happens.

Anyone have any suggestions? I’m sure there are a few iPhone apps out there for this sort of thing?

Dehydration and Tea

It would appear that I’ve taken on a particularly English trait which I hadn’t noticed was that strong in me.

So I came back from my 2 week holiday abroad to find that the kettle in my flat was not working anymore. Something must’ve happened whilst we were away – we have no idea what is could’ve been, as there seems to be no obvious reason. Whatever it was, the kettle is dead and we’ve therefore been kettle-less for almost a week now.

In that time, I’ve actually noticed myself feeling more dehydrated than usual. Why? Funnily enough, because no kettle = no easy source of boiling water, which means no cups of tea. Without really realising it, tea has become my main source of fluid to keep myself hydrated throughout the day. Exercise times aside, I don’t tend to just drink cups of water whenever I feel thirsty. What I do do, is make myself continuous cups of tea throughout the day, taking continuous sips from my cup(s). It can be green tea, white tea, breakfast tea, or even the occasional Earl Grey, but it is tea. As soon as a cup gets cold or empty, I automatically make a new cup.

It’s become a bit of a habit I guess, which I’ve just realised from NOT being able to make my usual copious cups of tea in the evening. I can easily get through about 6-8 cups of tea on a normal day.

Dehydration clearly isn’t good for anyone, so it is with great pleasure that I can finally say that I managed to complete a relatively decent run today. Why does that matter? Because I have this other habit where I allow myself to down a cold glass of coconut water with slimy chia seeds (yum yum yum) whenever I complete a good, sweaty run. If that doesn’t counter dehydration I don’t know what does.

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My run details? It was just over 9KM in about 51 minutes. Not the fastest I have ever done, but I felt good running it, so I’m taking it after my recent failure.

How do you stay hydrated throughout the day?