Sunday, 23 March 2014

All in a weeks training, mate. The ups and downs of training for a marathon on the Gold Coast - snakes and all.

Race day is getting closer, the training runs are getting longer (taper is fast approaching - phew) but the temperature just isn't getting any cooler. Not that I am complaining. The Gold Coast has been an absolutely fantastic location to devote a block of time towards training for an event. However, the challenges I have been faced with have been of a very different nature to what I would have been confronted with in either New Zealand or England.

Everyday I look forward to my training. There is something amazingly cleansing about this place. The sea breeze, the salt air and the spectacular sea views allow me to say that each and every run is an enjoyable experience. I literally pinch myself everyday when I look out at the ocean at Nobby's Beach Look Out, located only 3kms from where I am living. Running alone is good for the soul. Running in paradise just blows my mind, every single day. I could not reccomend it more.

I arrived here at the beginning of December, with the intention of staying until April, before returning to London to run the marathon. As much as my mind has been blown with the incredible experience of training in such a cleansing place, the tropical climate has undoubtedly presented a number of challenges; in which I have had to overcome. It's all part of it and all very character building, to say the least.

My training diary (and personal diary) over the past two weeks have been full on, mixed with lots of happiness and also learning experiences.

Here is a few snippets of training/life of the Goldy;

My alarm goes at 4.00am and this is enough evidence that I have become one of those crazy marathon runners. I literally have to do my long runs at this time though. It is usually getting up around 30 degrees by 8.00am and I have always found it hard to stay cool while I am training. I sweat A LOT and I therefore loose a lot of electrolytes. Rising early for long runs is something I have had to do - especially when my run is on the up side of two hours. I used this particular run to practice consuming energy gels at the correct times - a simmulation of race day. I also had to stop a couple of times to stare at the magic that is present during a sunrise on the Gold Coast. About 90 minutes into my run, I enter a beautiful bushy head land, sun rising behind. Looking down and seeing 100, still, silent surfers waiting on their boards for the next wave, sun rising behind them literally took my breathe away.

Exactly one week after getting engaged on the beach I have grown to love so much (very exciting unanticipated times) I decide to head to the grass track for a fast freshen up session. I decided to leave this work out until after work as it was a particuarly hot day. The sun sets early here (most people are in bed around 8.30pm and rise early) so I was heading down to the track in the dark. The track is only a couple of kms from where I live. It is also located next to a swampy lake. Being the poor, naive kiwi that I am; I took my shoes off for a couple of the reps I was doing ( I love running barefoot - call me Zara Budd if you must), very unsuspecting of the venomous wildlife known to be living in the area. I was running quickly around the dark track, barefoot, when I felt a sharp pain under my foot. The pain travelled through my foot and leg. Naturally I finished the session (only kiwis will get that joke). My foot remained sore and tingly. I assumed that I had run over a sharp pine cone or something. The pain didn't go away once I arrived home, nor once I had showered, cooked and eaten dinner. My fiance (Sam) looked at my foot and quickly bustled me into the car and drove me to the hospital. He saw the unmistakable two holes formed by snake fangs. As I said; poor, unsuspecting, naive kiwi. I had to stay over in hospital, having blood taken every 4 hours to ensure the snake that had bitten me was not a venomous one.

I am fine. The snake bite was not venomous. I returned home very tired, a little embarrassed and very put off running barefoot.

I was off to Brisbane to race my last big race before the marathon. Looking back; my head was really not there. I had been celebrating my engagement, my friends wedding in NZ and nursing snake bites. However, I stood on the start line trying to discipline my mind and get it to the place it needed to be. Sam was next to me - with plans to pace me through for a personal best time. It was 5.00pm and still thirty degrees. I had been sitting in a hot car for an hour and a half. Fellow runners - if we want to find excuses - oh, we will. These are just a few of mine.

This was a very humbling race for me - races and training have been going pretty much to plan up until this event. I could write a novel of excuses relating to heat, pressure, life getting in the way but at the end of the day - there are good days and there are days when we learn things! This was one of those days for me and a necessary part of my journey. I have learnt to go with whatever I am presented with - not against it. I am having to go with this race failure (I literally panicked 500m in and couldn't breathe), except this as a failure race - without excuses - and hope that I will be stronger for it during the marathon, with a few extra mental strategies added to my tool belt.

Termperatures will always vary, race times will change and life will happen! Running and being good at it is all about being able to tackle anything that arises and adding it to the list of things that can be overcome, as apposed to possible, available excuses at hand. Harsh but true.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Super Kai - Part 2


Anything goes, epic porridge

Everyone who has lived with me knows I am a sucker for porridge. Here are few tips on how to get the most out of this wholesome, comfort food breakfast.

Try to use whole oats – they are rich in complex carbohydrates and fibre. Instant oats are broken down much more quickly and therefore have less sustaining energy.

Add lemon rind, grated ginger, cinnamon and fruit to porridge instead of sugar. Try to avoid sugar in the morning as this causes an energy spike - what goes up must come down. If you start the day with a wholesome breakfast, without sugar, you are more likely to have consistent blood sugar levels throughout the day and less likely to experience cravings.

This porridge is topped with apricot, chia (which I have raved about enough), pomegranate and yoghurt for extra proteins – athletes should include proteins in every meal. However, protein is often over consumed. It is calorie dense and if unused, stored as fat and excess amounts are very straining on vital organs.

If you are a person who likes to run/exercise before breakfast to boost the metabolism you could try adding coconut oil to your coffee. Coconut oil is a good fat which can be used instantly by the body (most fats are used as a last option – hence the build up).

I can’t generally run before breakfast because I always tend to wake up with a rumbling tummy. I instead sometimes add coconut oil to my porridge. I usually cook my oats in water but you can use milk – almond, rice, oat, coconut or normal. Mix up the milks you use to avoid intolerance and to give your gut the variety it needs.

Another topping idea is peanut butter. I have used chocolate peanut butter (yum). Nuts are another good form of protein and don’t contain the saturated fat that animal based proteins do.  


Fruit Salad with coconut water (the real thing!)

This is a lighter option than porridge so if you aren’t training for a marathon you may prefer to mix the key, nutrient packed ingredients  that I have mentioned with a variety of seasonal fruits, not oats. Mixing seeds, nuts and citrus rind to a fruit salad not only boosts the nutrient value by adding proteins and even more vitamins, it also gives it a bit of crunch. Eat colourfully – your body will love you for it.

I have mixed chia, coconut and almonds with watermelon, passionfruit, apple, banana and sliced limes.

It is very hot where I am living at the moment so the electrolytes contained in the coconut water certainly won’t go to waste. Training for a marathon in 30 degrees plus is a sweaty, thirsty business.


Raw, green, anything goes muslie with lemon water

Packaged muslies are really yummy and I certainly enjoy them when I am in a rush but most (operative word here) do contain a ridiculous amount of sugar – check the packet. Avoid them if you wish to limit the cravings you have for sweet food and if you find yourself feeling lethargic early on /throughout the day. I got very creative and mixed goji berries with chopped almonds, coconut, chia, sunflower, pumpkin seeds and brazil nuts. Everyone should eat two brazil nuts everyday as they are one of the only foods that provide us with the selenium that we need. These nuts and seeds provide the crunch of muslie, without the sugar . I then added kale (oh yes I did), chopped granny smith apple and banana. Raw foods contain an enzyme required to efficiently break down food that heat (frying, baking and boiling) destroys. I added coconut milk

It is also an idea to start the day with warm lemon water. Warm water is less of a shock (than cold) to the waking body, making the nutrients more absorbable. Lemons boost the metabolism so will ensure your digestive organs are working efficiently early on in the day. They are also incredibly high in vitamin c so a nice alternative to a tablet, if you have time. Just add the juice of one lemon to a cup of slightly cooled boiled water.


Polenta power pancakes with paw paw

I usually do a longer run on Sunday, if Saturday night permits, so pancakes for breakfast is always nice. This was a rather humbling experience after all my breakfast successes! In other words, probably don’t make this. Instead enjoy/relate in the ways my ‘’too big for my foodie boots” disaster can be linked to training for a marathon.

To cut a long story short, I decided to replace the flour I would generally use in these, with polenta. Just as it is good to mix the milks you drink, it is also good to vary the grains you consume. Overconsumption of wheat has lead to astonishing/avoidable (in my option) levels of celiac disease. However, it turns out that flour gives pancakes something that polenta quite frankly, does not. I tried frying the pancake mixture three times - #fail. Just before throwing the fry pan across the room in frustration I decided to try and grill them, as one last resort. My housemate and breakfast food sampling extraordinaire was relying on them to get her through the day after all! This semi worked, in a crumbling all over the place kind of way.
So the pancake experience can be linked to the training for a marathon in these ways;

 1)   Trial and error is a necessary part of success.

    2)   Persist, persist, persist – the reward is so worth it (it turned out that Anna actually really enjoyed them!)
 3)   Throughout the process, stay humble! There is always someone out there who knows more than you do about what you are doing – just as recipes are abundantly available and have also been generally proven to work!

Along with polenta this mixture contains chia, coconut and flaxseed (a roughage that is guaranteed to boost your metabolism and assist digestive organs).

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Breakfast of Champions

This is part one of a two part breakfast blog that covers seven days of nutrient packed breakfast ideas.

I have always been a very healthy eater and I put a lot of thought into what I fuel my body with. Athletes place such high demands and expectations on our bodies so we therefore must reward and nourish them by giving them exactly what they need.

I am currently training for the London Marathon. When I fully committed to this decision, around November last year, I promised myself two things; I would listen to my body and what exactly it was telling me in response to the training (getting to the start line of a marathon is as much of an a accomplishment as it is to make the finish line) and I would nourish my body well. I try to eat as many ‘super foods’ as possible, I eat as many raw foods as I can and most importantly; I eat clean. Eating clean simply means eating food in its purest form – minus unnecessary chemicals, addititives and preservatives. A simple trick to eating clean is to stick to the outsides isles/shelves of the grocery store. These shelves contain produce, grains, diary and meat products. The shelves in between these usually contain packaged, convenience foods, full of unnecessary nasties.

Eating clean, super foods (a super food is simply proven to have super health benefits for humans) allows our bodies to efficiently and quickly convert the food to fuel (gas to burn for us runners) and act as a readily available building block to allow and optimally assist with recovery. The purer the food, the more effectively your body will use it for what you want it to do.

I try to eat super foods all day long but here are some ideas on how to get a whole handful into your body before you even leave for work in the morning. Committing to a clean, super food packed diet does require a bit of extra time and effort but I believe that super expectations on the body require super treatment, care and nourishment. I love cooking too! I hope you can have some fun with these ideas. I am not one for sticking to recipes so take what you want from these ideas and swap whatever I have used for whatever you have (as long as it is clean and super).


Qunioa Super Porridge

Qunioa is commonly considered a grain but it actually belongs in the same family as leafy veges such as spinach and kale. It is high in protein making it perfect for post run and it is delish! I cooked my qunioa in almond milk and sweetened it with a grated green apple, cinnamon (lots of cinnamon), vanilla extract and lemon rind and juice. The rind of the lemon contains the most super powers so get grating. Once the qunioa was ready I mixed in chia seeds (if you haven’t read ‘Born To Run’ read it now to understand how truly amazing this tiny, black, omega 3 packed seed is – I eat them everyday) and chopped almonds. I topped mine with berries (the ultimate antioxidant provider) – this time I used raspberries and goji berries but use whatever you have/is in season.  I added greek yoghurt for even more proteins and added a slice of watermelon for extra hydration.

I ate this the day after a hard track work out. I woke up with throbbing legs so I knew I had to get some serious protein into me.


Coconut Water Super Bircher Muslie

Bircher muslie is a kind of raw, cold porridge, soaked overnight in liquid. Our bodies best absorb the fibre and vitamins that oats contain when they are raw and soaked. I have soaked mine in coconut water as coconuts are packed with nutrients and the water of a coconut acts as a natural electrolyte drink (I try to steer clear from sugar packed sports drinks). Coconut is also one of my favourite flavours! I have soaked the oats with shredded coconut, chopped almonds, seeds and nuts (whatever you have - they are all super) grated ginger (ginger is in the root family and all roots have natural healing properties and a long list of other benefits), lemon and lime rind and juice and cinnamon (spices contain nutrients in a very dense form so sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle). I have served mine with acai powder (pronounced a-sigh-eee - a dense powdered form of super berry – great in smoothies), greek yoghurt, blueberries and the seeds of a beautiful pomegranate fruit. Seeds are all high in omegas (building blocks for muscle) and pomegranate seed’s rich red colour is a give away to their super levels of toxin busting antioxidants.  They are a wonderful addition to any salad or breakfast.
Finishing touches include fresh mint, extra lime rind and a slice of lime. Bon appetite!!!


Clean, Green Breakfast Smoothie

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The key ingredient in this smoothie is kale. If you don’t eat kale every day, start now. I could write a whole blog on why but here are the key facts:

1) Kale is high in fibre, low in calories and has zero fat.
2) Kale is high in Vitamins K, A and C which protects against many cancers, supports a wide variety of bodily functions and is great for your vision, skin, immune system, metabolism and hydration.
3) Per calorie, it has more iron than beef and more calcium thank milk.
4) Kale is full of antioxidants, which help protect against various cancers.
5) Kale lowers your cholesterol levels.
6) Kale is an anti-inflammatory food and contains omega-3 fatty acids,
which help fight against arthritis, asthma and autoimmune disorders.
7) As Kale is filled with fibre and sulphur, it is great for detoxifying your body and keeping your liver healthy.

I have crammed a large handful of kale into the blender with half a frozen banana (the one and only food you could live off if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life), a mango, a green apple, celery, grated ginger, lemon rind, lime rind, greek yoghurt and coconut cream – packed with protein and flavor!

I have served mine with mint, blueberries, shredded coconut, chia seeds and lemon and lime slices AND I was lucky enough to devour it after a beach run, yoga session and by a beautiful pool. Hang in there Londoners, summer is coming! Hopefully this smoothie will be able to bring a bit of summer to you!

Stay tuned for part two – more recipes and super, clean eating facts.

Friday, 10 January 2014


What defines a champion?

I think a champion is determined by a large number of factors. There are champions in all fields of life, those that seem to have that ‘one thing’ that allows them to soar above the rest.  When it comes to sport, particularly an individual sport like running, genetics has to play a part. Some of us were clearly more born to run than others. This, however, should not restrict anyone in any shape or size from taking part in this highly cleansing, fulfilling sport and from getting the most out of his or her own body.

In my opinion; two words can be used when it comes to defining a champion; 1) discipline and 2) commitment. Over the years I have stumbled across definitions for these two words that seemed to have registered well with me.

Discipline can be defined as identifying and acting upon what you want most of all/in the long run as apposed to acting upon what is desired at the precise moment; e.g., another glass or three of wine.

Commitment is the act of sticking to an idea/person/thing after the mood or phase/stage passes which lead to the construction of the idea. We all have days when we are more motivated than others. Being able to remember the mood which lead to an idea and tapping into or reconnecting with the feelings that lead to the idea construction; e.g., entering an Ironman race, is what determines true commitment.

Champions Day

“Champions Day” is a phrase I use to help motivate myself. It combines the two words I have defined and helps me get out of the door on days I would prefer to put my feet up.  When the wind is howling, rain is pelting or my head is pounding; I tell myself that the day is a day that champions train. This usually manages to motivate me to get out and do it (something very few runners regret, once done). Training on a ‘champions day’ always results in a double dosage of runners high too, if it’s any extra incentive to readers!


I have bolded the word ‘usually’ in the last paragraph as it really is the operative word. I think in order to be a champion you must be committed, disciplined but you must be able to recognise when commitment and discipline are in fact unhealthy compulsion or obsession. My experience of individual sports people has lead me to believe that our tendencies could be assumed to be obsessive by the non-athlete so we have to be careful here. There is a difference in encouraging yourself to get out for a run when you rather wouldn’t after a hard day and forcing yourself to after one hours sleep, not being able to remember the number of beverages consumed the night before and when you have a niggly knee anyway! I am still battling with the line which separates the two and it’s taken me a large number of injuries and even surgery to get close to being able to do so.

So, to conclude, a champions day is a very special day. It is a day which separates the champions from the rest. It is a day when an athlete combines commitment, discipline, common sense, gut instinct and lessons learnt in the past, into one. It’s a #championsday. See you out in the park with hat, gloves and rain coats on but NOT with limps or chesty coughs thanks!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Running as a metaphor for life

I’ve been running for 25 years and the more I run, the more I realise it can't be separated from any other part of life. It might sound heavy, but to many runners life is running and running is life. In this post I will look at how and why running is a superb metaphor for the way we live.

It’s a social thing

I’ve met some of the most amazing people I know through running. We share a connection and understanding of each other. Most importantly, we are incredibly loyal – both to our sport and to our friends. I am lucky enough to call the amazing New Zealand runner, Sarah Christie one of these friends. It was Sarah who shared some influential words from former 5k New Zealand record holder (and her ex coach), Dick Quax: running and life cannot and should not be separated in order to get the most out of both. At the time I was too young and naive to really understand what she meant, but her words certainly registered and now I truly appreciate their meaning.

It’s a reflection of good vs bad times

I moved from New Zealand to London in March and the shift really helped me comprehend what Sarah meant by not being able to separate running from your life and vice versa. The roller coaster of jumping hemispheres has had a good mixture of wonderful and tough times. It’s exposed the way that when things are smooth and wonderful, so is my running: the training, the racing and my body’s response to it. However, tougher times mean the opposite: motivation for training is lacking, race performance is below par and running is something I simply have no energy for.

It’s a measure of energy levels

It comes down to the fact that we only have so much to give each day. When we’re doing something that makes us happy, we have energy left to do the things we love, like running. However, if we spend our day in a draining job or situation, all we feel like doing is putting our feet up. The same goes for racing; when life is going well we race well and when times aren't so good, performance drops.

You don’t always have to perform highly

Running is a good variable of measuring your current situation. If it feels easy, natural and you feel excited about getting out for a run then things are very good. If life is a bit bumpy then running might be a put to the side for a while and that, my high achieving running friends, is ok! So what’s the answer? Life is too short to not have anything to give the things that we are passionate about. Find a job or lifestyle that makes you happy and allows the time and energy to enjoy running. If your life accommodates your running, your running will work for you and your life.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Inspiration from Jeff Edmonds

This is how it works:

Training is doing your homework. It's not exciting. More often than not it's tedious. There is certainly no glory in it. But you stick with it, over time, and incrementally through no specific session, your body changes. Your mind becomes calloused to effort. You stop thinking of running as difficult or interesting or magical. It just becomes what you do. It becomes a habit.

Workouts too become like this. Intervals, tempos, strides, hills. You go to the track, to the bottom of a hill, and your body finds the effort. You do your homework. That's training. Repetition--building deep habits, building a runner's body and a runner's mind. You do your homework, not obsessively, just regularly. Over time you grow to realize that the most important workout that you will do is the easy hour run. That's the run that makes everything else possible. You live like a clock.

After weeks of this, you will have a month of it. After months of it, you will have a year of it.

Then, after you have done this for maybe three or four years, you will wake up one morning in a hotel room at about 4:30am and do the things you have always done. You eat some instant oatmeal. Drink some Gatorade. Put on your shorts, socks, shoes, your watch. This time, though, instead of heading out alone for a solitary hour, you will head towards a big crowd of people. A few of them will be like you: they will have a lean, hungry look around their eyes, wooden legs. You will nod in their direction. Most of the rest will be distracted, talking among their friends, smiling like they are at the mall, unaware of the great and magical event that is about to take place.

You'll find your way to a tiny little space of solitude and wait anxiously, feeling the tang of adrenaline in your legs. You'll stand there and take a deep breath, like it's your last. An anthem will play. A gun will sound.

Then you will run.

- JEFF EDMONDS The Logic of Long Distance

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Adventures of a Kiwi Supply Teacher - A Wee Fishy in a Biiig Pond

This post is about the lessons I learnt from supply teaching and is aimed at other teachers planning on making the move over to London.

I trained to be a primary teacher in 2010 and started work as a Year 2 teacher in 2011- in a lovely Auckland school. I worked hard with my classes for the next two years, gaining plenty of experience with the New Zealand curriculum. I was fortunate enough to gain comprehensive professional development, especially in the literacy area. A lot of teachers at my school had spent time teaching in London and the idea of doing the same thing started to brew in my mind as I neared the end of my two year registration. The idea grew stronger and stronger until I had decided it had to be the next step in my teaching career and life journey. My mentor teacher (the New Zealand registration process has a ‘buddy system’ in place, where the newly qualified teacher is coupled with an experienced teacher, to assist  in a wide range of ways), who I looked upon with great respect, had experienced it just before she ‘took me under her wing’. She stressed to me that it was a good idea, not only was it beneficial for her career but also for her own personal development. London offers you something that our small country simply can not. This is purely due to the difference in population.

Over here in London you become so much more “Mr or Miss Anonymous” than at home. I quickly realised how lucky I was to have been educated in a country of such small numbers. The experience, education and professional development I had gained in New Zealand was truly a blessing! The registration process I had been through was so increadibley thorough and I did not truly appreciate this until I was put into the London schools. I realised our (kiwis) education was very highly sought after in London and that I would not have a problem finding work.

I spent the next six months supply teaching. This was an irreplaceable and highly valuable experience. I won’t lie, there were mornings that I felt very nervous, the anticipation of not knowing what to expect of the class I was about to enter, often lead to a few butterflies fluttering in my stomach. I learnt to embrace this feeling and told myself  “this is all good character building Erin”.  I taught in areas all across London. Not only was this good for my confidence, by being placed out of my comfort zone (do one thing every day that scares you-right?) but it was the perfect way to get to know the structure of London itself, and the tube system. Victoria, Paddington, Oxford Circus were suddenly a lot more to me than just a monopoly game. My knowledge grew quickly of where the Northern Line connected to the Victoria Line and so on. I felt a feeling of being a wee bit of a small fish in a large pond. Something that New Zealand did not really have the capacity to offer me. Something that is truly good for the soul!

A few things that supply teaching taught me are….

Children are children -  They may  look and speak very differently to the ones in my class at home, but they are all still children. Strategies that had worked for me at home, also worker here.  This helped me with my own teaching philosophy – children are people, people have the right to be respected, once respect is gained -effective teaching can then take place.  I guess I had to learn to vary the ways in which I gained the respect from the children and I had to learn to gain this respect quickly. This think and act fast requirement was so incredibly valuable to my teaching and to me as a person.

If I didn’t like a school, I didn’t have to go back -  Coming from New Zealand and having a good work ethic meant that I was able to be picky, as will other teachers who are tripping over from across the equator. If I found the school to be unbearable, I simply got on the phone to my consultant and told them it was not for me. I left the school at the end of the day feeling satisfied to have made it through the day, to have come out with more character building experience but also knowing that I would be off somewhere nicer the next day.

Everyone only has a certain amount of energy – don’t waste this on attempting to change the world (or a class) in one day– I will be the first to admit this and I am sure most teachers will be able to relate; I do have a perfectionist personality. I think it would be difficult to be a teacher without one. I learnt, over my supply teaching period, about my own personal energy. Energy is something I am fortunate to have a lot of but perhaps something that needed to be managed more efficiently. Note well; I am still working on this one. I got very sick when I first started supply teaching. This was likely due to two things; new foreign bugs and me wasting my energy on trying to change the world in a day. Every school has a different way of doing things. This varies immensely across the different schools and may be different to the way that is blindingly obviously, the right way.  I learnt to go with it, to let go a bit and do things their way. A maths lesson may have been left for me which seemed almost a complete waste of time – just let go and go with it. An English lesson could have been left for me which suggested teaching something in a way that I would never have previously considered and perhaps even contrasted to the way in which the New Zealand curriculum suggests to deliver content. Just go with it and accept that, again, it’s all character building and in fact broadening personal knowledge of teaching strategies.

I could actually write pages and pages about the lessons I learnt whilst supply teaching. I could talk for hours and hours about the experiences I had – amusing, challenging, enlightening and random! I hope to meet with many of the other teachers travelling from overseas so that I can comfort you when you need it, laugh with you when something funny happens and remind you to just look forward to tomorrow, when you need it. Supply teaching in London is in irreplaceable and valuable experience for any young teacher travelling from overseas! I am so grateful for the way it has developed my career, my personal life experience and knowledge of myself. I can not recommend the experience more.