Journey to Amsterdam – Week One

Week Breakdown Nutrition Breakdown Other Considerations Comments


MON 29th June

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 6M
  • +200kcals before run as carbohydrate snack
·  Keep fluid intake up Need to keep stretching
WED Rest or cross training
  • base rate
·         Report how you feel.

  • Stretching
THURS General aerobic 9M
  • +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
FRI Rest or cross training
  • no change
· Maintain micro nutrient intake on rest days
SAT Medium Long Run 12M
  • +500kcals
·  Stretch
SUN Recovery 4M
  • no change
  • Keep drinking water and fluids
  • Try to retain the nutrient balance
  • Anti-Spasms
  • Stretch
  • Self-massage

Race report: Stockholm marathon!



We jetted off from Gatwick on Thursday morning, heading for Arlanda airport, Stockholm.  Stockholm is built on a series of islands, all well connected with various forms of public transport as well as being walkable.  I hadn’t been before but had a list of Things To Do: eat reindeer, visit the ABBA Museum , oh, and run the marathon!

We arrived at our airbnb chosen apartment in Stora Essingen (a smaller island slightly off the beaten track) to find a beautiful duplex in typical Swedish style – lots of wood and IKEA type clever storage.

dummy run

Blending in

The next day we headed off to the expo to pick up our race numbers and try not to buy everything on offer.  The expo is held near the start of the race, unlike the other big city marathons I’ve done (Paris and London) and it was nice to practice the journey in advance, and work out meeting places etc. The Pasta Party was included so we stopped there to have lunch. Organisation was very smooth, the expo was a bit smaller than expected but still plenty to look at.


The Starbucks of Stockholm – excellent Cinnamon Buns. And Chocolate Muffins. And Cardamom Buns…

After carb loading, we set our alarms for a very respectable 8.30am, as the marathon didn’t start until noon. We woke up to weather reports of heavy rain, and tried to ignore that while we had breakfast. It felt very odd to get up at a civilised hour, and meet everyone at 11am instead of the usual 7.30am.

pre run

Warm and dry – pre run

The rain had not appeared, which we were thankful for. We made our way to the start line where there was the usual hubbub of nervous runners and spectators, big queues for the toilets and bag checks. The baggage area was in the open, although we had been given kit bags to keep everything in.

At about 11.30 we made our way to the starting pens. We figured out that, oddly, women’s numbers were yellow while men’s were white, but we did not figure out why I started in F and my friends started in J, when we were running around the same time. There were pacers for each time in each pen as well, from 3:45 to 5:15, so it wasn’t by pace.  Nevertheless, I didn’t feel held up or penned in, or rushed along either.

There were two start waves – 12 noon and 12:10. There were also lots of toilets in every pen, which was great. I ended up going twice before we started! After the Swedish national anthem, there was a bang from the start gun and we were off! It had been raining lightly before then, but soon after we started, it poured. I soon began to regret my decision to wear a vest and shorts, although it meant that I had to keep running or risk hypothermia! It rained and rained – it rained the entire rest of the time until it finally gave up about 8pm that day. I have never been wetter. Despite this, I really enjoyed myself.

My race plan, after somewhat patchy training this year, was to take each mile as it comes. The ’A’ goal was to have fun and remember how great running is, and not worry about time or pace. I was aiming for about 10 minute miles. I did the first 5k in 28.58. I had doubts that I would make it to halfway at that point because it was raining so hard, but I decided to dig in – I wanted that medal! I also knew I couldn’t let the support down, who were standing in the rain somewhere along the course.


The course with drink stations mapped

The course is one of those nearly-two-laps-but-not-really routes, where you follow just enough of a different route the second time to make it seem brand new. The puddles were definitely deeper! You get taken past the palace, along the waterfront and through what I referred to as the ‘garden island’, Djurgarden (where the ABBA museum is!). There were water and aid stations every couple of miles, so I walked through those. At one point we were offered vegetable stock, which was lovely and warming, and at the 35k we had coffee, which was great as I’d just been fervently wishing that I’d brought some money with me so I could get some coffee.

The supporters were incredible. Standing out in the rain for hours and hours with umbrellas and cagoules and wellies, huddled under bridges and in doorways, every one of them shouting ‘HejaHejaHeja!’, it was amazing and I was humbled by the encouragement. The miles ticked by and the scales tipped from ‘gosh, that’s a long way to run’ to ‘only 10k left’ then ‘only a parkrun left’ then finally, ‘only 2k left’.

Soon the finish line was in sight – the 1912 Olympic Stadium.  I was dismayed to find that we were being led past it, round the back (that’ll teach me for not looking at the route properly!) and into the athletes entrance. Before I knew it, we were on the track and I could see my husband and our friends jumping up and down in the stands, cheering and shouting.  I forced my tired legs onwards and ‘sprinted’  to the line. A quick look at my watch said 4:19 – not my fastest, not my slowest but definitely enjoyable as I ran it all at a comfortable pace.

I got a hug from another runner who’d obviously been tailing me for a while, which was lovely, and I chatted to a Bath half runner who’d just completed his first marathon and was in a bit of a daze. It was still raining heavily and we were herded through the stadium and down towards the tshirts and baggage area. I had been given a poncho but I was already soaking so I kept it until I could get to my change of clothes – unfortunately they were in the opposite direction, with my husband! At the tshirt stand I had started to shiver, and there were no tinfoil blankets left. I asked for a ‘crew’ tshirt from the pile I spotted on the floor, but was firmly declined.  That was an unusual reaction as every other official was extremely friendly.  I managed to change my wet top for my dry one and hoped that that, coupled with a poncho, would keep me warm until I could get to my dry clothes.



The after care (apart from that one incident and the fact that they ran out of tinfoil blankets) was great, and included buns, coffee, hotdogs and even beer. I had a cinnamon bun and a coffee, which was great. The goody bag had some excellent items in it, including a commemorative sports bottle filled with water, chocolate milk and muscle freeze.

I finally made my way to my husband and friends, ducking into a bathroom to change. I had not brought a towel or a jacket, so I had to try to put my compression tights on post marathon and soaking.  I am thankful there were no cameras in that bit!

Stockholm is slightly more expensive than the UK but it was lovely, and we stayed for a few days after the marathon too, so I got to go to the ABBA museum, which was great – for an ABBA fan!

We also went to the Vasa Museum, which is a fascinating close look at a ship that sank four hundred years ago, just a mile into its maiden voyage.


The Vasa

I’d recommend Stockholm marathon as a slightly later Spring marathon, it was mostly well organised and the route was pretty enough. I have a feeling it rains quite regularly in Stockholm though so be prepared for wet weather. The rest of the time were there was mainly dry, apart from one morning where it was dry by lunchtime.

viking hat

Obligatory tourist shot (sorry Stockholm!)

I’m going to breakdown my training and discuss my plan for Amsterdam in another post. For now, I’ll leave you with my friend and I trying on Viking hats…

Road to Stockholm – Week Seven

Week Breakdown Nutrition Breakdown Other Considerations Comments

Needed a REST day

  • no variant
  • Make sure the nutrient split is as expected
·         Gauge how you feel.

·         Weigh in

·         Keep the cycle loose and easy

 forgot to weigh in (might have been the cheese)

calories 1,532

  • +200kcal
  • extra to be taken as protein after session
  • Race tomorrow so just to get the legs moving


Forgot to do the tempo thing

Calories 2,099

too much chocolate

  • +200kcals
  • Take additional calories 2hr pre workout.
·         Report how you feel.

·         This is the last GYRR series – go for it!

  • Keep the pace controlled

·         Keep looking to breathing

 Series PB 39:35



Went out too fast, hung on for the last three!

calories 1,615

Not sure about this as I had chips and doughnuts for dinner, but that’s what MyFitnessPal says


Sweatshop run

  • +200kcals
  • 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.  4:43M in 40:29 ave pace of 9:09min/mil

calories 2,075




  • +200kcals
  • Take the extra calories as carb snack 2hours before swim
·         Keep form in mind  Felt pretty good


  • +100kcals
  • If you choose to do parkrun then increase intake by 300kcal.
  • Still complete relaxation and therapy session.
 10.92 miles average 9:12 with parkrun at 28:00

Nordic walking approx 4Miles

Felt great, early start but worth it!

calories 3,148


Shifting this around as the marathon is next Saturday and I would like a lie in on Sunday

  • +300kcals
  • Have the additional calories post workout
·         This will be a piece of cake!  lovely REST day. Did walk into, through and round the city.

calories 3,020 (woops)

Total miles: 35.73

Well. I am clearly a weekend warrior when it comes to food… I’m currently ‘maintaining’ but I would like to lose a few pounds through training for Amsterdam. I think the way to do that is to drop the snacks, or at least, swap them for something a bit better.

I will still have treats, but I’ll make sure it is a treat and not an everyday occurrence.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton



A perfunctory glance at google reveals that Jessie Burton is an actress who has worked in the theatre and studied at Oxford. The Miniaturist is her debut novel, and purportedly took four years to write.

This was the first book from Mr B’s that I tackled, and one of my suggestions for the book club I belong to.

It took me a couple of weeks to get into but that was not down to the novel, but that wasn’t anything other than me not committing to the introduction. I always find it takes me about thirty pages to settle into a novel, and at five pages a night just before I went to sleep, I wasn’t giving it the respect it deserved.

I’m going to try not to spoil any of the story, but in a novel about secrets and whispered conversations, it might not be possible to keep everything under wraps!

18 year old Petronella (Nella) Oortman arrives at her  Amsterdam marital home as a newlywed who’s met her husband once.  She’s greeted by the household staff and her sister in law, in an awkward and frosty reception, perfectly illustrated.  Her new husband is older and an extremely wealthy merchant, so he is rarely around.

He does give her a beautiful and expensive dollhouse, a near replica of their house. Nella is baffled by the gift – traditionally given to young girls in order to practice running the household. At eighteen, she already has the skills, and she chafes under the assumption that she does not. As an act of defiance, she enlists a Miniaturist to fill the house, her small piece of Amsterdam that she is truly in charge of. The first pieces duly arrive and they are beautiful indeed, but some of them allude to events that have yet to pass, an uncomfortably close reflection of their innermost thoughts, writ large in miniature.

As more pieces arrive, unbidden, the tension builds alongside Nella’s discovery of secrets and lies within and outside of the household, as she begins to understand the political and religious hierarchy within the merchant guilds of Amsterdam.

At the same time, she is building a relationship with her new family and as everything unravels she finds she is knitting another life altogether.

I enjoyed the detail in The Miniaturist and it’s obviously well researched. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the narrative was a lot sadder than I had expected it to be. I was a bit disappointed that Burton didn’t take the path I had hoped she would, towards the occult and arcane, instead treading the slightly more worn one.

Her next book is called Belonging and is a dual time narrative between the Spanish Civil War and London, thirty years later. It sounds quite interesting, and I am a sucker for time travel in novels!

A pile of books and a litre of coffee


Raleigh bianca

I love reading. I am fortunate to come from a family of readers, whose houses are full of groaning bookshelves. When I was younger I loved nothing more than cycling down to the library on my Raleigh Bianca and filling up the saddle bag with new books (or old favourites) to devour.  I wished I could be Matilda (without the horrible parents) or Maria and her little white horse and her wild red hair. I read about Anastasia Krupnik and a Proper Little Nooryef. I did every Summer challenge available and the Brownie book badge.

I love reading so much that I did my degree in English Literature & Philosophy. Now, that is a whole lot of reading. When I graduated, having perhaps worked too much and not read enough, I was a bit fed up and weary of reading.  I resorted to magazines for a few years after graduating. After whinging at Mr Charming that I was bored of reading magazines and felt unfulfilled and that my brain was wasting away to nothing, he came up with a brilliant solution. Read books instead of magazines. Lightbulb!

My friend and clever writer type challenged me to read a book a week for a year. I catalogued that journey with this as the first post, in this blog.  I gave it some structure by applying some rules around reviewing every book and following an alphabetical by author first/last name path.

Since then, although I haven’t managed a book a week, I’ve kept up with a book or three every month.

After I read this post at the tail end of 2013, I knew I had to visit Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights for one of their book spas.  It hopefully sat on my birthday and Christmas wishlists for a year or so, before I managed to kill the proverbial two birds by booking a half marathon in Bath, and the ever lovely Mr Charming offered to bankroll  a good ol’ portion of it too.

I booked the appointment just after Christmas 2014, with delightful responses. Then I waited and waited for February 27th to HURRY UP.  We set off from Norwich on Friday morning. It’s a looooong way.


We were going brilliantly until we got three miles away from Bath, and then the apparent one road in jammed completely. We took about forty five minutes to travel about a mile and a half. I managed to ring the bookshop and let them know that we might be a bit late but we’re on the way. Mr C dropped me off in the middle of Bath and I used my handy smartphone to navigate to the shop.

I opted for the £100 spa. In for a penny, and all that.

You can find all of the details on the website (on this page) but basically that meant that I got as much coffee/tea/water I could drink and a lovely yummy cake, sat in a comfy chair and having an excellent book based chat with the brilliant Emma, as soon as I got there.  Mr B’s does a lot of work in matching bibliotherapists with clients, and I had a small questionnaire to fill out before the appointment so they can be sure I had the person with a similar taste in books.

Emma asked me brilliant questions,  such as how comfortable I am with gore or violence (an excellent question) along with what I wanted to get into. My favourite thing was that she’d read literally everything I talked about.  She also handled my slightly rubbish ‘I read this book once that had a thing with a thing and then that thing time travelled, what was it called?’ questions with grace, and knew all of the answers too.

After about an hour and a half (the quickest 90 minutes ever), she went to gather The Pile.  I got to devour my cake, refill my coffee and have a nose at the beautiful room.  Even the bathroom is papered with books!


Emma came back with a massive pile of books, which was very exciting. Even more so, she then talked me through each one’s basic plot and what she loved about it. Some of them I had read already and loved, which was fantastic because it showed me that she was definitely on the right track. After that, I then had the terrible job of choosing which books to buy and which ones to leave behind!

As part of the bookspa, as well as the tea, cake and Emma’s time, you get £75 to spend on books, a full Mr B’s voucher (for £5 off your next purchase), tote bag and mug. I definitely spent the £75 on this little lot:

In fact, I had to go back the next day and pick up a couple that I’d put in the wrong pile, and couldn’t stop thinking about!

I had a lot of fun at Mr B’s – everyone clearly loves books and I could spend hours and hours there.  If I lived closer, I’d love to get involved with their book clubs and author events, as it reminded me of how great reading is at taking us to other places and introducing us to new people.

In fact, it’s probably worth mentioning that they do a postal service, called Mr B’s Reading Year.  Subscribers get adorable brown paper parcels throughout the year based on an initial consultation.

For the book lover in your life (which could be you…!)

I’m going to try and write reviews more regularly than I have been, and will pledge to review at least every book in this pile this year. Definitely.

First up – The Miniaturist!

The Road to Stockholm – Week Six

Week Breakdown Nutrition Breakdown Other Considerations Comments
  • no variant
·         Gauge how you feel.·         Weigh in

·         Stretch just  to loosen joints and increase circulation.

 weigh in – 2lb more than last week

ave 2,069 calories

TUES IWU1M/I50m/E50m REPEAT 30min/CD1M


  • No Variant
  • Look to form and bursts of energy at the intervals. Keep this even throughout the session
 felt brilliant, had protein shake slightly too soon before running but felt great – 1hour 25, 9:28min/mil ave

ave 2,213



  • +200kcals
  • Take additional calories 2hr pre workout.
·         ·  Report how you feel.  ave 3,303 calories
THURS WU1M/T5M/I1M/E1M/CD1M (approx 9M)



  • +200kcals
  • Spread additional over the whole day and look to keep GI low when taking on carbohydrates.
·         Remember to be taking on micro nutrients wherever possible.·         Keep the tempo controlled and steady but don’t be afraid to push the pace  Cycled to book club and back too

ave 1,630 calories


1Mwu/I50M/R100M (REPEATx 20) /1Mcd

  • +200kcals
  • Same rules as always for commute days.
·            Race back, really push home  er.  one million calories – Cheese Club
  • +100kcals
  • If you choose to do parkrun then increase intake by 300kcal.
  • We want to ensure you don’t get burn out.
  • Anti-Spasms
  • Stretch
  • Self-massage
 ave 2,100 calories
  • +600kcals
  • Please split additional between pre and post workout.
  • Keep practicing race day breakfast, snacks etc
·         Going into taper mode from this run

  • Set the watch but don’t get hung up on the exact pace. What we’re looking for is the difference between the gears throughout
 10M in 1:38m average 9:50min/mil

ave 1,879 calories


Well dear readers, this wasn’t a great week for me.

I stopped smoking five and a half months ago, and my asthma has actually got worse since then. I must be the only person in the world whose health declines after stopping smoking. I had an attack on Friday night with no triggers – we were in our house. My inhalers aren’t helping either, so I have this slightly scary ‘sore heart’ area all of the time.

I had an excellent mid week Tuesday run despite some chaffage (thanks, summer shorts – why must you always do that for the first few warm runs?) and I felt like I could run forever. Sunday’s scheduled 17M turned into a 10M because basically, I had lost the will.

Stockholm is in two weeks and I should be feeling strong and confident. Instead I haven’t managed to run longer than 14.5miles continuously since September. I’m not in a great place, I’m afraid – mentally or physically.

I don’t want to give up, but I feel like I’ve spent this whole year (and some of last year) frantically trying to regain my running mojo and it is a cruel mistress indeed.

I’m off to the doctor’s tomorrow about my asthma, hooray.

Any advice on how to get your mojo back and start loving running again?

The Road to Stockholm – Week Five

Week Breakdown Nutrition Breakdown Other Considerations Comments


  • no variant
  • Report how you feel.
  • Weigh in
 This was so tough. 10:35 average pace but the last three miles were more walking than running. I chafed in the sun, ran out of water and everything creaked. Pleased I did it.

Weigh in – 2lbs less than last week

calories 2,921

  • 300kcal
  • split calories before and after session
  • Racing Wednesday so just get the legs used to pace

felt good for the tempo mile

calories 1,840

  • +200kcals
  • Take additional calories 2hr pre workout.
·         Report how you feel.

·         mobility exercise before the race to raise HR


took it reasonably steady

calories 2,501

-too much chocolate and had pizza that day too!



SRC Recovery run

  • no difference
  • Spread additional over the whole day and look to keep GI low when taking on carbohydrates.
·  Remember to be taking on micro nutrients wherever possible. Cycled to work and back 10miles

Sweatshop run 9:02/8:18/9:52

calories 1,806

– felt okay. Wanted a longer run but had to settle for faster



  • +200kcals
  • Keep an eye on energy level
 45 lengths (1125m) breaststroke in about 40 minutes

calories 1,969

– had a pint of ale, beer and a cocktail which are not included un the calorie count.

too much chocolate again!

  • +100kcals
  • parkrun not advised as heavy week with longest run – volunteer!
  • Still complete relaxation and therapy session.
 go karting

calories 2,429

– pastry for lunch and dinner portion (turkey and pasta) was too big


T2M/MP6M/E1M/CD1M (approx 22M)

  • +600kcals
  • Please split additional between pre and post workout.
  • I would advise Protein and complex carbohydrate makes up the majority of this.
·         Mobility stretches pre run

·         Pay attention to piriformis and glutes post run

 Tired but didn’t feel too bad considering it was a heavy week. Back, hamstrings and glutes felt extremely tight though, meaning from 13 miles I walked/ran and from 16 I walked home. Same as Monday.

calories 2,472

This was a tough week, but I felt fine. A bit fatigued but generally okay, apart from the lower back, hamstring and glute issues I experienced on the long runs. I will stretch every day (instead of twice a week) and see if that improves it.

Pleased with the weight loss but I think I need to cut out the snacks, I’m still spending too many calories on chocolate. I’d rather have more of the good stuff.

Long run splits from Sunday – I’m getting a pretty good pace on (slightly inconsistent, but okay) until almost exactly two hours in, when you can see me start to really struggle.

2015-05-11_10-49-57Mileage total 49:52miles (running) 9:65miles (cycling), 0.7miles ish (swimming) 2miles ish (go karting)

Total calories: 15,937

Target total calories 11,900

difference: 4,037

The good news is that I’m not hungry anymore, and my protein/fat/carb percentage intake are quite steady.