Nice times in Nice

For 3 weeks in July Alex scampered off to Nice with his bike and his friend Greg to cycle, watch cycling and talk about cycling (lots).

While I’m not a fan of cycling in any way, shape or form, I really do like the weather, food and shops of the French Riviera, yes I do. Alex and I had a brilliant week-long holiday in Nice last year, so I couldn’t resist inviting myself to join in the fun – but this time for three nights only!

Nice apartment
Nice apartment

We stayed in a brilliant little Airbnb apartment near the centre of Nice, which had an awesome bunk bed thing on stilts! Alas we discovered after the first night that it was too hot to sleep up there (GCSE physics was right – hot air does indeed rise), so in the end we slept on the sofa bed on the ground instead!

Plenty of tasty food eating ensued, including several trips to Arlequin Gelati on Avenue Malaussena for their to-die-for gelato. We also paid a much-anticipated visit to Rendez-vous des Amis (an amazing restaurant near where Greg was staying that we also went to last year) for three courses of deliciousness. The chef came all the way from a Michelin starred restaurant in Paris and it’s always full of locals – living proof of how good it is!

French views
French views

To get into the spirit of my little holiday I was reading Ernest Hemingway’s unfinished novel Garden of Eden, where a newly married couple travel around the south of France and get up to all sorts of mischief. While I was reading the part about them driving past Antibes, Alex and I were actually on the train to that very same place (in case you’ve read the book, I hasten to add that all similarities ended there!). In Antibes we found a lovely sandy beach to lie on and the warm Mediterranean Sea to dip in (much nicer than Nice’s pebbled beach and rougher sea!), plus lots of cobbled streets to wander through. During my short stay we also went on a road trip with Greg, taking in the winding cols of the area outside Nice, including the beautiful village of Eze and the hills above Monaco. I couldn’t turn my head without being smacked in the face with another amazing view!

In no time at all it was time to say goodbye to the gelato, the sun and the sea, and leave Alex and Greg to their cycling adventures. I’ll always love Nice and would love to make it an annual holiday, but next year that won’t be possible as we’ll be 10,000 miles away in Australia! More about that to come…!

Running Travel/holiday

Why this isn’t a running blog

Finish certificate
Half marathon finish certificate

Last October I ran my first half marathon, which was amazing enough on its own given how much I dislike running! But about a week before the race I did something even more crazy – I signed up to run the Brighton Marathon in April 2013.

I had thought about writing a marathon training blog, as it’s something I’ve seen lots of other runners do so their friends can follow their progress. But it soon became apparent that every single blog post would say something along the lines of this:

Went for a run. Hated every minute of it. Legs were sore.

And who would want to read that 4 or 5 times a week for the duration of a 16 week marathon training schedule? The answer is no one!

But I did do something fairly interesting during my marathon training – I went to Portugal on a marathon training camp! And handily they also had a duathlon training camp, so Alex could come with me and cycle to his heart’s content!

A rare moment of sunshine
A rare moment of sunshine

So on 21 March we headed off to Faro with one bike and one suitcase full of lycra! It turned out that the Algarve was experiencing more rain than ever before, but at least it was warmer than the unseasonably cold London we had left behind.

On our first afternoon we met our coaches for the week: Mike Gratton, who won the London Marathon in 1983 and since founded his own running company, 2:09 Events; and Phoebe and Nick from RunningWithUs, who I’d already come across a couple of times at Brighton Marathon training events. Without further ado we went for a 5 mile run down a dirt track towards the beach, passing countless other runners along the way (some of whom seemed pretty good!)

Saturday was the day for our long run, and unfortunately it poured with rain the whole time. Luckily I was running with a new friend called Kathy who was training for London, and we found a good pace and kept each other’s spirits up! I was aiming for 20 miles which would have been my furthest ever run, but in the end I called it a day at 18 miles – soaked through and aching all over!

A tired Alex from cycling
A tired Alex from cycling

Alex was also having a pretty exhausting time of it. He was cycling miles and miles every day, often up some seriously steep hills. He’d be gone for hours, whereas my running training tended to only last an hour in the morning and a couple of hours in the afternoon. So I kept myself entertained by sunbathing (during the brief times when it wasn’t raining!) and doing sessions like pilates, yoga and core work. While Alex was cycling I also went on some day trips with the other runners. One of them was to a Nike factory store, where I treated myself to a new head band! And on another trip with Kathy I discovered something that I probably should have already known, or at least been able to guess – that Port comes from Portugal!

Most of the runs passed without event, except for the climax of the week – the cross country competition. Everyone on the training camp got involved in this ‘handicap race’, with the slowest runners starting first and the fastest runners starting last, with the aim that somehow everything would end up balancing out. The slowest runner was 79 (but he looked more like 90, bless him), so he started off a good half an hour before everyone else. Needless to say I was one of the next slowest runners! Everything was fine at first, until my leg cramped going up a steep hill half way through the first lap. I’ve never really run cross country before so it’s probably not surprising that my body objected to the experience, but the leg cramp was so painful that I was in tears! At that moment Alex came by (having already caught me up despite starting much later!), and he stopped to see how I was. He then ran with me for the rest of the course, meaning he ended up finishing last – much to the surprise of the 79 year old who was expecting to be the slowest even with his 30 minute head-start!

I returned home from the training camp feeling exhausted but pleased that I had met so many other runners and learnt some new skills to help me during my marathon – which was now just over 2 weeks away…