Eclectic Cake

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Class Review: Best's Bootcamp

Trail and ultra running has made me lazy. It's fine to walk when it gets too steep, regular pictures are a must and if you go too fast, you'll miss the view. It comes at no surprise that I'm a much slower runner than when I pounded pavement.

How do I remedy that? Essentially, by doing all the things I usually avoid. Running faster, hitting the treadmill for some vomit-inducing intervals and using gym equipment to keep my base strong. I've been playing too long. If I want to improve, I need to visit the pain cave more often.

In this case, that cave was situated between Embankment and Charring Cross stations and looked pretty unthreatening. Best's Bootcamp lure you in with their ever-changing live DJ, Kiel's toiletries and smoothie bar but once you're faced with one of their treadmills, they only mean business.

As the new kid on a whole block of treadmill HIIT studios, Best's has the opportunity to improve upon an existing formula and they've taken full advantage - using the latest and greatest treadmills that even boast a downhill function, fully padded workout boxes that prevent any shin-to-edge injuries and an 'trainer cam' which gives you a 360 degree view of the instructors and allows you to view exercise demos from anywhere in the room. They've done everything they can to help get you comfortable with getting uncomfortable.

The hour-long workout, as expected was glute-shakingly tough and sweaty. A familiar combination of treadmill sprints in between reps of strength exercises, overseen by hawk-eyed support trainers made sure we were suitably tired. It's the type of class you love to hate (except the downward treadmill sprints, where I had to restrain from holding my arms out like an aeroplane) until the moment you're finished. By then all is forgiven. You stop internally throwing abuse at the instructor and your death stares become subdued.

Being rewarded with a post-workout smoothie further helped to win me over to this slightly darker, disco lit side. At £20 a session, it's far dearer than a casually paced explore outside but as a proven formula, it's sure to provide results.
DISCLAIMER: Best's Bootcamp invited me to a free pre-launch event to try the studio.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

New Feets of Recovery

I admit I'm not particularly tall but my feet are still far away enough to forget about. I look at them now and again, mostly when something is falling off or needs popping. They are the most disgusting part of my body but probably the part I ask the most of. 

When I climb, they get squished into tight, curvy shoes and forced to teeter on tiny lumps on a wall. Then they're made to pound the ground for hours, whilst soaking up puddle water and being coated with mud as I run. And yet they rarely get any love... maybe a going over with the foot file and the occasional toenail trim (when there are nails left to tend).

After miles (both horizontal and vertical) of abuse, it's time to care for my feet. Thankfully, it turns out I don't have to get very close (my nose wouldn't allow it after first removing my climbing shoes anyway), thanks to my new OOFOS. A recovery shoe that cradles your arches and absorbs shock, to allow your feet to prepare for whatever you force them to do next.

They passed the first test with flying colours (well, my favourite shade of green, anyway). After returning from my latest trail marathon, there were four things I went to for recovery.

1) A cold beer in a nice warm shower – yes, shower beer is the way forward.

2) My old faithful compression tights.

3) Any food I could get my face into.

And then there were the OOFOS. After digging out my only pair of toe socks (it's a little cold to walk around the house in sandals), I slid on my shoes and geared myself to walk al the way down two flights of stairs to where all the food was hiding. I'd expected it to hurt but the cushioning made the walk more manageable. Obviously my legs were still aching but the sandals seemed to help rock me into movement. 

Just as the beer soothed my soul and the tights hugged my legs, the OOFOS massaged my feet with every step I took. I actually found myself walking more whilst recovering, which I think stopped me from suffering much from stiffness.

I think my recovery essentials list just become a little longer and my feet a little happier.

DISCLAIMER: I was kindly sent a pair of OOFOS shoes for free

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Race Report: Trailscape South

WHAT: Trail Marathon
WHERE: Ashurst, East Sussex
WHEN: 23rd January 2016

We've all experienced it. That little niggling voice that appears mid-race, telling us to stop running. "It's too hard." "You're probably last." "Maybe fall and try to break your leg, so you don't have to carry on." The best defence against this negativity is to fill your head with a stronger, positive voice. Part-way through the Trailscape South marathon, this voice came from Kasia.

I'd signed up for the full distance in a haze of post-race endorphins after running my first official marathon. I then promptly forgot. A reminder two weeks before race day gave me little time to prepare. This race was not going to be easy. Even less so because the course was covered in a thick slick of sticky mud. The type where only five-minutes into the race, you can reasonably forget the real colour of your shoes.

I did have a plan B (secretly plan A). As the marathon was made up of two loops, there was an option to drop out half way and be crowned a half-marathoner. This sounded like a good option to my undertrained legs – get all the praise for starting a marathon but avoid rotting in a ditch somewhere after becoming exhausted and presumed dead by the race organisers.

Surprisingly, it was my watch that gave out before I did, barely clocking 5-miles before packing up. Although this meant I wouldn't be staring at my watch, wishing the miles away, I also wouldn't be able to track my progression. I was completely winging this race, with no idea if it would pay off. In fact I assumed it wouldn't.

I quickly sought safety in numbers, chatting to whoever I got close to. Eventually, my pace seemed to match that of a woman who looked pretty strong and comfortable. If all else failed, I'd hop on her back and she'd be able to carry me to the finish, even just to the half way point – I was struggling with the idea of just completing the half. The problem was, we were running at the same pace but ten-metres apart. She was so close yet so far. Until this woman, who I assumed was a running machine, stopped. She turned around and signalled that she was finding it tough too. Who was going to carry me now?! 

As soon as I caught up with Kasia, it was clear that I wasn't the only one finding the sticky, energy-sucking mud a challenge. We continued forwards (sideways in the worst mud slicks) and chatted. We talked about anything and everything. All the whos, whats and whens. The whys and why nots. 

Somehow we had passed the half-way mark almost without realising. I paused with my get out of jail free card behind me and the sign pointing to the start of the second loop in front. Really?! Was I going to try and do this? Kasia looked certain I was. So we continued to chat for the second loop, taking turns to banish any negative little voices that crept into our heads. If I hadn't have found my teammate, I probably would have had tried to hitch a ride on the only road our trail route crossed.

We crossed the finish line hand in hand. Stronger together. And with another piece of the Trailscape puzzle completed.

DISCLAIMER: I am a Trailscape ambassador and gratefully race for free.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Race Report: Trailscape, East

WHAT: Trail marathon
WHERE: Cuxton, Kent
WHEN: 5th December 2015

As I headed against the traffic for my second lap, like a salmon in the shadow of a bear claw, I felt defeated. 

My first official marathon had started well. Running the first lap with a friend had made the tough hills, 30mph winds and sticky, slidey mud fun. But running in towards the half-way check point, where I’d drop off my company, I realised that doing another lap on my own with quickly tiring legs would be a little more challenging.

Credit: Trailscape

Most of the other marathoners had already headed out for the second lap, I’d passed a lot of them on the out and back. I was far behind and my head had begun to drop. Now I could see the 10k and half-marathon about-to-be finishers headed towards me, I had to use every bone in my body to   not turn round and join them.

Credit: Trailscape

“You’ve got this, you look so strong!”

Really?! I looked around to check there hadn’t been a case of mistaken identity. There was no one else to be seen silly enough to do the full marathon. Maybe I was doing better than I thought… Whether it was true or not, another compliment on my strength and a power-up from an enthusiastic high-five and I was no longer cursing the race directors for the double-lapped route. I was feeling far more positive, if a little teary from all the kind support I’d received.

Ever the completer, rather than a competer, I spent the next 14-ish miles (Trailscape races are measured in ‘trail miles’, so the marathon was a tad longer than the normal 26.2) admiring the views, snacking on the perfect mix of jelly babies and mini pretzels, and chatting to the marshals for longer than I should. 

By the time I was well on my way back to race HQ, I was almost reluctant to finish. Flitting between  dancing and weeping my way along the remainder of the course, I was proud to be finishing my first official marathon but a little sad the adventure was over. After all, I hadn’t exactly made it easy on myself. I’d chosen a fairly brutal event for my debut, there was a really real chance of not finishing.

Picking up my pace to overtake the only other runner I’d seen on my entire second lap, I rounded the corner and readied myself for the cheers from the crowd as I finished…only most were long gone by the time I finally emerged from the trails.

I didn’t mind, it was wishful indulgence. I’d already had my fair share of support, right when I really needed it and I’m so grateful.

There are two more races in the Trailscape race series, you can sign up for them here.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Fire Up Your Run

I almost ran over a hedgehog. It was dark and those prickly guys aren't exactly known for their fluorescence. Luckily for him (and my toes), I avoided crushing it but this mini non-incident made me look at my own night-running attire – almost all black. Great for camouflaging into the darkness, like Mr. Tiggywinkle, but not so great if I also wanted to avoid being squashed whilst running across roads and along shared pavements and bike paths.

And then a giant matchbox, full of luminous treats from Nathan landed on my doorstep. Within seconds, I'd blinded myself playing with mini lights, torches, a reflective bottle and a t-shirt bright enough it could direct planes to land. 

Of course, when I was at school, the words "be safe, be seen" were all over the notice boards and my mum would make me wear a reflective snap band on my arm in winter – highly embarrassing when you're the only 6-year-old wearing one. She had a point, though. You might see that bike hurtling towards you on the shared pavement but, unless you've donned the high-vis (you know, lit up like a Christmas tree), then they most likely won't see you until they have to pull you out of their spokes.

Wearing all the Nathan lights would possibly be considered a dangerous distraction on the road, rather than a safety measure – there are a lot to choose from. Although, you could possibly start your own rave. It's good to know there's an option for everyone.

I'm not sure I could ever wear the reflective vest without feeling like Jodie Marsh's sportier sister. And carrying a torch or bottle, no matter how cool (in both senses of the word – the insulated layer keep your drink cold), feels a little awkward. But when I run with the LightSpur though, I feel like I'm racing in Tron. The mini lights are so easy to slip into a pocket, in case you find yourself suddenly plunged into darkness and they don't weight you down like a head-torch could.

After what felt like a lifetime of running in Summer sun, suddenly being plunged into the cold and darkness of autumn has played havoc with my training. It's a little less appealing to step outside when it's pitch black and every muscle in your body tells you it should be asleep, so it tends to happen less often. It's good to have something to brighten up each dark run.

Browse the full Nathan visibility range here.

DISCLAIMER: Nathan kindly sent me a selection of their visibility range to trial.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Run Wild with Brooks

Running the concrete jungle can feel a little dull sometimes. The roads, the buildings, even the skies can lack that certain something the true wilderness offers, so Brooks has injected some wild into our runs with their new limited edition Urban Jungle collection.

There are three shoes available, each with its own jungle print that will bring out your animal instincts. Cushiony, structured Ghost 8s – with zoomy zebra print for men and speedy leopard print for women – and energising women's Ravenna 6s in a vibrant green print. The same brilliant Brooks shoes, just a little wilder.

I tested them out in what can only be described as an urban rain forest, a very soggy ZSL London Zoo during a scavenger hunt to find the wildest animals. It turns out that even the scariest of animals don't like the rain though, so it was down to us to bring the spirit of the jungle to the city.

Win Wild!

For your chance to win a pair of limited edition Brooks Jungle Collection shoes, follow these steps...

1. Take a picture of your wildest run.

2. Post it on Instagram before midnight on Tuesday 17th November, making sure you tag @eclecticcake and @brooksrunninguk using #winwild.

3. Keep your fingers crossed until the winner is announced on Wednesday 18th November.

(UK residents only)

DISCLAIMER: I was generously gifted a pair of the Women's Ghost 8s by Brooks

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Never Stop London

It's hard living in the city when your heart is in the mountains. Yes, there are ways of getting high up in London but scaling an oversized glass tower doesn't even compare to climbing a beautifully brutal natural giant. Until I win the lottery and can afford a little hut in the trails, like most of us, I'm stuck living where the money is and weekend visits.

That’s why, together with The North Face, I'm creating a hub for like-minded London explorers, that will host community activities to help you escape the concrete jungle and explore the great outdoors. Each event will be based from the new Regent Street flagship store and will be completely free.


Prepare you for the mountains with weekly outdoor strength and stamina conditioning. Whether you’re a trail runner, climber or snowboarder, these sessions will help to improve your fitness so you can enjoy every minute you get in the mountains. 

Gather in store for an outdoor workout, starting with a short jog to a local park to warm up. There our expert trainers will lead us through exercises, which target the areas of the body required to be strong for all explorers.

Every Tuesday, 6:15pm–7:30pm
The North Face, 290 Regent Street, London


Feel inspired and ready to explore with monthly evenings set to fill your mind and soul. The sessions will be different every month. Watch a dramatic adventure film that will get you planning your next adventure. Listen to one of our incredible athletes speak of their greatest challenges. Or learn new outdoor skills in our workshops, from foraging for food to navigation


We know our weekly workouts and inspiration evenings will leave you itching for adventure, so once a month we'll take the community out of the city for a weekend exploration. From trail running to hiking, climbing to skiing, there’ll be something for all mountain lovers at any level. 

Together with our partners, we’ll show you great new places and ways to explore outside of London, where you can put your new found fitness and skills to the test under the guidance of our experts. 

For more information on the events and the community, head to the #NEVERSTOPLONDON Facebook page.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Race Report: Trailscape, North

WHAT: Trail half marathon
WHERE: Newport, Essex
WHEN: 31st October

As it was Halloween, it was appropriate that this run was a little scary. Dressed as a sweaty pumpkin in my bright orange Trailscape T-shirt, I'd spent the first few miles lugging myself through the sticky mud, shocked at just how unfit I felt. 

I hesitated at the turn off for the 10k route, tempted to shorten my run and avoid what seemed like my inevitable fate – having to stop and set up camp in a self-built mud hut, living off acorns and poached woodlice, until I mustered the energy to continue running the half marathon because the way I was running, it would take days. Probably weeks!

I guess it's part of the adventure of trail running. You're at the mercy of the elements, the test is not how fast you finish but how you deal with what's thrown your way. On this occasion, we were chucked into slippy, slidey mud that sucked your shoes and your energy each time you put your foot down. It was tough.

Somehow, I made it to the half-way point and the first check point – a chance to pause, fill my face with Jelly Babies and Jaffa Cakes. And get a reality check.

The three volunteers, marshalling that table of sugary joy were having fun. They'd probably been up since the first glimpse of light and had been standing on the trails waiting for us to arrive for hours, yet they were laughing, joking and having a great time. I needed to lighten up.

Once I accepted that this wasn't going to be my fastest half marathon, I relaxed and settled into running. The longer I was out, the more fun I'd have, right? I happily splashed through puddles and hopped over mud, enjoying the appropriately spooky mist that blanketed the essex countryside, the wonderfully windy course and the company of other runners. Anyone who passed me no longer brought dread of getting slower but a new opportunity for conversation.

I'd come out the other side of grumpy doubt and was having fun, so it was a pity that the end came so quickly. I emerged from the trails, back over the railway bridge and straight into the gathering crowd of finishers, with a mission for the next three races in the series. Come back stronger and smile!

The next Trailscape race is in Cuxton, Kent on the 5th December. You can register here.

DISCLAIMER: As an ambassador for the Trailscape race series, my race entry is paid for by the race organisers.