Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here – Anna Breslaw

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Scarlett Epstein

 

I read the first few chapters of Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here by Anna Breslaw, through the book review website netgalley. As an aside, I’m quite new to the site but it looks great – you apply or request advance or proof copies of books and then, if you’re approved, they get sent to an electronic device for you to read and review.

Scarlett Epstein is a fanfic writer who loves a show about monsters (which is Buffy The Vampire Slayer, basically) and is devastated when it’s cancelled. Her best friend IRL doesn’t understand the obsession but that gap is fulfilled by a number of online fellow fan friends, some of whom are adults who have real life jobs. Scarlett’s an only child in a single parent family and feels inferior to her peers and classmates, who have whole, rich family lives (in monetary terms if not emotionally).

Her crush and love of her life, Gideon, has been stolen by her nemesis and arch enemy, who just happens to be her best friend’s sister.

The story is good and I have to say, I wanted to read more and I was a bit upset when the sneak peek ran out. My favourite character was her rebellious, weed smoking octogenarian neighbour. It reminded me a bit, bizarrely, of Anastasia Krupnik’s friendship with Mrs Stein.

I would also say that there’s more than a passing resemblance to Rainbow Rowell’s fangirl, and another parallel to be drawn with Patrick Roth’s pithy script for high schoolers. Just because it’s not entirely original does not make it a bad novel, of course.

I am looking forward to reading the rest when it comes out on April 19th – Amazon link here.

Marathon de Paris T minus 5

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Paris. My eleventh marathon and my third go at Paris. I’ve had two PBs which include my current PB of 4:12. I love the route – the city is wonderful and the parks at either end are beautiful. I even love the people who wheel their bikes/scooters/prams out into the raceway (although maybe not so much at the time).

paris route

Five months since my last running post.  That was a bit of a deliberate space, to be honest. Amsterdam was so pressured and there was so much else going on, that I couldn’t blog alongside Paris as I started a new job which takes me away from home four days a week. It felt like another Thing To Do, a chore to be put on the list, and that’s not what I want running to be about. Or blogging, for that matter.

 

As you’ve probably seen from Instagram, I’m still running and baking! We also got a new addition to the house – Peggy the ragdoll kitten. I’m in love, dear readers. She is so adorable. Even when she’s purring into your face at 6am while standing on your neck. At the moment, she’s asleep on my legs as she’s a massive heat whore and it’s a bit chilly today. She is really beautiful too, she looks like Daryl Hannah’s character, Pris,  from Bladerunner.

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We went to Edinburgh for Hogmanay which was lovely until I got sick and spent ALL day in bed on January 1st. Not a great way to start the year, to be honest.

 

In running terms, I did Adnams 10k with some friends in a lovely leisurely 1 hour 15, I think. I was grateful because I thought the storm would cancel it, so I had a few too many pints the night before. We did drink some of the Adnams beer given out on the way round!


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Going back a bit further, I had a panic attack in the middle of St Neots half marathon and had to stop to hyperventilate a bit. I’m being flippant about it now, but I worried about the worry. I think that episode was to do with stopping my anxiety medication and from starting a new job within a fortnight. I do not recommend anyone to do that, by the way. I am now on a pretty even keel and it’s all fine, although I’m still taking asthma medication. The first couple of months were horrible though, and I ended up having another panic attack during a run on Christmas Eve, where I burst into tears on Mr Charming’s shoulder. I am so thankful I have amazing friends – my running bud Hayley Hamster is awesome, and she took care of me. She didn’t let me give up.  On the upside, I did Christmas Day parkrun with friends and had a lovely time.

 

I’ve followed the up to 55mile week P&D Training plan. It’s been tough – getting up at 5am four days (or five) a week to get in 10-12miles before work, chasing the lampposts. Sitting in a hotel bedroom eating porridge at 5.15 to run around a city that you don’t know. Getting up at 5am on a Saturday to run 17miles before parkrun.  Clocking up 40-50 miles a week over five days where the rest days are the ones where you’re driving 200miles – 4hours+. Through all of this though, I’ve been getting stronger. I’ve done a 10mile race and just about equalled my half PB at Cambridge.  

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Cambridge half marathon splits

Cambridge half marathon splits

Three runs left. 6miles tomorrow. 7miles dress rehearsal on Wednesday with 5miles at MP – 9minutes per mile. Paris parkrun on Saturday at a very leisurely pace.

Then race day. I would absolutely love to do a sub 4. I know that, in my heart of hearts, when (and it is when, I know I am capable) I get it, I’ll almost immediately want faster.


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I want my race on Sunday to be the best race I can be. Controlled, fun, enjoyable. Perhaps not entirely comfortable – I don’t want to finish like Amsterdam, as if I hadn’t done anything. I want the last three months, the last 484.2 miles to be worth it. If that means a PB, brilliant. A sub 4 – even better. 30 seconds off per mile is a big ask and I know it needs to have everything to come together to work. Each mile at a time.

 

Well wishes and luck, please!

 

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark – Anna North

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I imagined Sophie to have brown eyes tbh

I imagined Sophie to have brown eyes tbh

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North was chosen by my IRL book club (as opposed to my online book club, obvs). One of the things I love about book clubs is that it introduces me to books I wouldn’t have read otherwise, perhaps because I don’t get to go to bookshops or libraries that much at the moment, or because, in all honesty, it would have gotten lost amongst the other samey covers/titles on the tables in Waterstones. I’m glad it didn’t get lost.

 

There will be spoilers in this review, so please don’t carry on if you don’t want it spoiled.

The format is interesting in that it’s told from the perspectives of a few different people, who quickly are identified as important people in the titular Sophie’s life (and death). A brother, a lover, an agent. A first crush and husband. Sophie’s voice is absent, of course, but comes through as a layering of the recounting of her career as a promising film director.

 

As we hear from more people and follow her journey from weird girl at school to, well, weird woman with a budget to make films, the picture becomes clearer. Sophie Stark isn’t even Sophie Stark as she changed her name before university. The first film she makes, about the all star basketball player whose girlfriend shaves Sophie’s head in an attempt to make her stop stalking him, is an underground success.

From there, all of her films are successful at the expense of someone else. She makes a film about her husband’s dying mother’s suicide without his permission, and uses a personal and intimate secret about her girlfriend’s past in a film that her girlfriend is playing the lead in.

 

There is a wider question about  Sophie’s moral compass, the outcome of which depends on your own standpoint, of course. I didn’t like her as she seems to be able to pick and choose when she feels emotion, and uses those closest to her in the name of Art. That might be because I just don’t understand that level of creativity. I’ve never been driven by that need to Make Things and to express emotion so vividly and powerfully that nothing can stand in my way. I mean, apart from my teenage diaries, of course.

 

She lives, she dies and inbetween she makes beautiful films. The trouble with the medium of film in a book is, of course, that we take their word for it that it’s beautiful, through the description and reaction of the people around them and the audience.

Although it wasn’t an amazing story, I still enjoyed the descriptions and I was still taken aback at her death. She isn’t a sympathetic main character, but I didn’t hate her enough to enjoy her death.

 

I probably won’t read this again, but I did like reading it and it was reasonably quick to read too. A good beach novel, for when the summer finally arrives.

Amsterdam Race Report – Number Ten

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I can’t believe it came around so fast. I think it’s probably because a lot has been going on since I started the four month training plan – I’ve changed jobs, celebrated birthdays and anniversaries and even got another job on a temporary basis. I’ve booked holidays to Edinburgh and York, visited and had visitors.  I’ve also eaten the world’s best lasagne and drunk some delicious beer.

 

I’ve gotten up at ridiculous o’clock to run stupid miles before parkrun. I’ve had good runs and bad runs (some bad runs in the ‘other’ sense, that’s for sure). I’ve managed a parkrun PB and I’ve done a 10k race as part of the training. I’ve weathered a three week cold which left me grumpy and nervous that I was too far behind to catch up. I’ve registered for Paris and managed to get Mr Charming signed up too.  I have been so lucky. I am supported by such an amazing bunch of people, from the running buddies who kept me company and made me routes to family and friends who listen while I explain that I can’t go out and get drunk because I had x miles to do the next day. Most of all, thank you to Mr Charming. Not content with supporting in the cold and wet for the last four years while I flit around the world doing races, he is now pushing himself and joining in. I don’t mean to brag, but he got a sub 2 for his second half marathon.  That is pretty amazing indeed.

 

After countless races, I don’t get nervous before them anymore. Well, not really. I get excited and anticipatory, but I don’t tend to worry that I’m not going to sleep or eat well or anything.

 

So, we had a massive flight from Norwich to Amsterdam – a whole 30 minutes! It was luxurious to be able to get a taxi the short distance and then hop on the plane. I almost grumbled that I didn’t have time to read my book properly. Okay, might have done a small grumble.

We landed in Schipol and then set off towards our airbnb’d apartment that we were sharing with friends for the weekend.

We found it without wandering around too much of the Vondelpark, hoorah.  The apartment was beautiful, although there were too many stairs for us marathoners! I love airbnbing in a different country because you generally get a better feel for what’s a typical house in that locality.

 

We went to the Van Gogh museum on Friday after landing about lunchtime. We were in the museumplein district so it was within easy walking distance.  It was great – I would recommend booking in advance as the queues were pretty long and it was drizzling a bit too. Thank you to the lovely person who advised me to book!

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Best. Slippers. Ever.

On Saturday we went to the expo to pick up our numbers and buy some ridiculously brilliant orange slipper clogs from the race sponsor, Mizuno. They sold a lot of clogs that day, that’s for sure. I also got suckered into buying a super expensive but lovely and cosy Mizuno hoodie. Woops.

 

After a bit of wandering and a bit of sitting, we went to Mazzo for pizza and pasta. If you’re going to Amsterdam, I’d recommend it. It’s beautiful and the food was pretty good too.

 

We got a reasonably early night after deciding that we’d try and get a tram to the start. Amsterdam transport shuts down for race day so be warned, you’ll need to make sure you know how you’re getting there in advance.

 

I woke up at about 6am and had breakfast of porridge and a couple of slices of toast with butter and jam, with a coffee. I’d had a protein shake the night before.  We got ready and left about 7.30, to get to the start for 8.15. It always takes longer than you think to do stuff on race day,  so plan for getting into the baggage queue, toilet queue etc. It’s a good idea to get to a race an hour before the start, especially if it’s a big city race.

Just before I left I realised that Mother Nature/Sod’s Law/Scientific cycles* had conspired against me for this marathon, and I was going to have to run it with a uniquely female er, visitor. I hope that’s not too obtuse, without spelling it out!

pre start

Some of the BCRC crew before the start! If you saw any of our stool flags, let me know

We got to the start, which was heaving with people. Bag drop is not in numbers, you just walk up to a queue and they’ll give you a corresponding sticker and put it on your bib.  It’s a good idea but it seemed like unnecessary organisation to me. What happened if the sticker fell off? I can’t remember my name at the end of any race, let alone an arbitrary number on a sticker I’d seen five hours before. My sticker did not fall off, thankfully.

 

There was a bottleneck to get into the stadium and we didn’t get in until about 9:20 after queueing from around 9am, so it’s worth getting in earlier than planned if you want time in the pens to warm up and go for a last minute wee.  It started to rain very gently – enough to get the pavement wet and definitely nowhere near Stockholm’s downpour!

 

It’s worth saying at this point that in terms of running, I was feeling more confident than I’ve ever been. I got a parkrun PB on Saturday, completely unexpectedly. I did a 6.66 mile run on Wednesday that called for 2 miles at MP (around 9:30min/mil), and I struggled to keep slower than 9:15. One of the miles was 8:42min/mil!

suze run

Thanks to E for the race photo. I’m wearing my go faster sleeves and co-ordinating like a boss, completely by accident

We were soon off, with the requisite fanfare of Black Eyed Peas’ “Tonight’s going to be a good night” (I have no idea why they always play that at races. It’s a good beat but it is slightly annoying). There was a bit of a bottleneck at the start as we went out of the stadium and turned left.

The miles ticked by and I knew it was a good run because I kept miscalculating the km markers – I thought we had more miles to go than we did!

A race of two halves

Can you tell where I plunged off the chart?!

The aid stations were regular and well signposted, offering water, AA Lemon drink, bananas and sponges at them all. Some of them had AA gels as well.

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A slow first mile due to the bottlenecks but quickly made up

As you can see, the first 16 miles ticked along nicely. My heartrate was floating above 150, even dropping down to about 130 as I relaxed and enjoyed the run. There were plenty of fellow BCRCers on the course supporting and running, so it was lovely to spot people along the way.

 

When it got to around mile 15, there’s a bit of a gap where I had the first wave of cramps which stopped me dead. I felt nauseated and could only double over in an effort to relieve them. From then, I was able to run for a couple of minutes at a time before stopping again to breathe through them. I begged some paracetamol from the paramedics and talked to as many people around me as I could. Even at mile 20 I was entirely fine, and hadn’t even got out of breath yet. The problem was, as soon as I started to run, my inner organs mounted their own fearsome protest against dealing with outside force as well as internal. You can see in the second half where I picked up a friend, around 4 miles from the finish. She was struggling with hip pain and together we pulled each other round. I remember looking at my watch as 3:59 ticked on by to 4:00, and being rueful and disappointed and frustrated.

kms 18-27

Despite all of this, before I knew it we were going through the Vondelpark on the way to the stadium. I loved the finish – going in on the right hand side and passing the finishers coming out the other way on the left, resplendent in their medals and majestic in their plastic sheets. Watching from the stands was even better, like some unfathomable cycle of life.

 

I finished in 4:38. My tenth marathon. I have such mixed feelings about it – I almost want to forget it as it was so terrible. I felt so frustrated and annoyed at such a betrayal by my own body. On the other hand, it shows how far I’ve come as it’s still better than my first marathon and I felt so amazing afterwards, I was able to bounce up and down the stairs (much to the non amusement of my roommates) and I thoroughly enjoyed the race itself despite the rain and the bottlenecks. It was a great weekend with excellent people. I’m also pleased that the P&D seems to be working for me. High mileage looks like a good idea – so long as I rest properly on rest days and make sure I keep up with my vitamin C.

Roll on Paris 2016! In the meantime, I have St Neot’s half marathon and Adnams Southwold 10k. Hopefully I’m going to have Cambridge half in February as part of the Spring Campaign – if I get in!

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A decent medal but not my favourite one

 

 

 

 

 

 

*delete where appropriate

Journey to Amsterdam – Week Sixteen: RACE WEEK!

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Week Breakdown Nutrition Breakdown Other Considerations Comments
12th October

MON

Rest
  • base rate of 1500kcals
  •   Think about how you feel.·  Weigh in
  • Make sure you’re getting enough water
 At this point, I’ve stopped weighing myself, to be honest! I know I could do with losing a few lbs but I’m happy where I am right now.

Rest

TUES  Recovery 6M
  • +200kcals before run as carbohydrate snack
  • Keep fluids up
Need to keep stretching

5.58 recovery ave pace 9:43min/mil

WED Dress Rehearsal 7M w 2M @ MP
  • base rate
  •  Report how you feel.
  • Stretching
 6.66M ave pace 9:10min/mil

Struggled to keep the pace below 9:30, even managed an 8:42!

THURS  Rest
  • +400kcals
  • Spread additional over the whole day and look to keep GI low when taking on carbohydrates.
  • ·  Remember to be taking on micro nutrients where ever possible.·
  • Don’t let fluid intake drop
 Yoga class
FRI Recovery + speed 5M w 6 x100m strides
  • + 500 calories, make this carb focussed
· keep hydrated

Stretch and yoga

Flight to Amsterdam from Norwich that day

Rest

SAT  Recovery 4M
  • +500kcals
  • Eat a carb focussed lunch and dinner, as early as you can to aid digestion
  • Keep hydrated
·  Stretch  Walked around Amsterdam

porridge and toast for breakfast

Burrito for lunch

pizza for dinner

protein shake before bed

SUN RACE DAY!
  • +300 kcals
  • Keep drinking water and fluids
  • Try to retain the nutrient balance
  • Anti-Spasms
  • Stretch
  • Self-massage
 Porridge and toast for breakfast

4h38

Positive split of 1:59/2:39.

Well, more to come in the race report, but it was definitely one of two halves!

Journey to Amsterdam – Week Fifteen

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Week Breakdown Nutrition Breakdown Other Considerations Comments
5th October

MON

Rest or Cross Training
  • base rate of 1500kcals
  •   Think about how you feel.·  Weigh in
  • Make sure you’re getting enough water
TUES  General aerobic + speed 7M w 8 x 100m strides
  • +200kcals before run as carbohydrate snack
  • Keep fluids up
Need to keep stretching

Assessment Centre in London for job position so unable to run that day

WED VO2 Max 8M w 3 x 1600m @ 5k race pace jog 50-90% intervals inbetween
  • base rate
  •  Report how you feel.
  • Stretching
 5.55M 9:10min/mil
THURS  Rest or cross training
  • +400kcals
  • Spread additional over the whole day and look to keep GI low when taking on carbohydrates.
  • ·  Remember to be taking on micro nutrients where ever possible.·
  • Don’t let fluid intake drop
 Yoga
FRI Recovery + speed 5M w 6 x 100m strides
  • no change
· Maintain micro nutrient intake on rest days  7M at 08:54min/mil
SAT  Rest or cross training
  • +500kcals
·  Stretch  6.69M with parkrun in the middle.

new PB! 24:15. Extra chuffed because I didn’t think I was running that fast.

SUN  Medium Long Run 12M
  • +300 kcals
  • Keep drinking water and fluids
  • Try to retain the nutrient balance
  • Anti-Spasms
  • Stretch
  • Self-massage
 12.09M at 09:32min/mil average

Journey to Amsterdam – Week Fourteen

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Week Breakdown Nutrition Breakdown Other Considerations Comments
28th September

MON

Rest or Cross Training
  • base rate of 1500kcals
  •   Think about how you feel.·  Weigh in
  • Make sure you’re getting enough water
Cycled around the city doing house/life admin
TUES  VO2 Max 8M w 5 x 600m @5k race pace jog 50-90% of the interval time inbetween
  • +200kcals before run as carbohydrate snack
  • Keep fluids up
Need to keep stretching

8M with 1/2mile of HMP x 6 ave pace of 9:34min/mil

WED Recovery 6M
  • base rate
  •  Report how you feel.
  • Stretching
 6.5M approx ave pace of 9:45min/mil
THURS  Rest or Cross Training
  • +400kcals
  • Spread additional over the whole day and look to keep GI low when taking on carbohydrates.
  • ·  Remember to be taking on micro nutrients where ever possible.·
  • Don’t let fluid intake drop
 5k at MPish 8:47min/mil

Did Beginners SRC with a friend and walked around Whitlingham. Total daily mileage estimated to be 7ishM

FRI Recovery + speed 4M w 6 x 100m strides
  • no change
· Maintain micro nutrient intake on rest days  Yoga class
SAT  8-10k tune up race total 9-11M
  • +500kcals
·  Stretch  Switched days so Long Run today.

16M at ave pace of 9:37min/mil. First 13 done in 2:02. Very slow parkrun

SUN  Long Run 16M
  • +300 kcals
  • Keep drinking water and fluids
  • Try to retain the nutrient balance
  • Anti-Spasms
  • Stretch
  • Self-massage
 ‘Recovery’ 9M done in 9:21ave pace

Fell asleep on the sofa at 8.30pm. Rock and roll.

Eagle eyed viewers will have noticed a decline in my calorie counter. I am still recording on My Fitness Pal but not accurately enough to be of any real use, to be honest. I am still trying to stick to the guidelines of 50% carb, 20% protein and 30% fat, and generally get on okay with those.

I am making my way back slowly from the Cold That Wouldn’t Die, and am feeling okay about Amsterdam. I’m not going to be breaking any records – I missed the speed section and some of the endurance, so Saturday’s long run was much harder than perhaps it should have been.

A friend who did the same plan recently smashed his PB by 5 minutes, achieving an amazing 3:54 at Loch Ness, so it does work! I’m not going to lie. It’s a lot of effort. But worth it, and I feel strong with this round.