July recap – travelling and training

July was a whirlwind of travelling and visitors, beginning with a weekend in Valencia, ending by heading to Santiago de Compostela, and involving a holiday in Greece, James’s first trip to Madrid and my university friends coming to visit. All the holidays and solo travelling meant several books were read so skip below to read about them.

So in July I…….

Swam: 13.4km – and that was just in the pool, I also had 3 short open water swims! So I think that’s the most I’ve ever swam in a month. Don’t seem to be getting any faster though. Oh swimming. (I posted here about my frustration with swimming this year). I was however very consistent, swimming twice a week and THREE times one week! Meaning I am now down on my goal of swimming twice a week every week this year by 10 swims.

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Cycled: 296.6km – I think this might be the most I’ve cycled in a “normal” month – i.e. one without a cycling holiday. Not bad going given I am no longer commuting to work by bike every day!

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Ran: 40km …. still a low running month but 5km more than last month. I have been concentrating on cycling as I know that will be the most important thing for half Ironman success, so where I’ve had to miss or change workouts, I’ve sacrificed running for cycling.

Read: I made up for only reading 2 books last month by reading 8 in July. Thank god for holidays 🙂

Those books were:

The versions of us by Laura Barnett – click the link for the full review but I COULD NOT put this one down. 
The blue between sky and water by Susan Abulhawa – a beautiful novel set through several generations in Palestine, mixing magical realism with the Israel-Palestine crisis and themes of identity, family and what makes us who we really are. Her writing is stunningly beautiful in its depictions of place and land. I really enjoyed this book.
Love with a chance of drowning by Torre DeRoche – spoilt Australian girl joins one-night-stand-becomes-boyfriend on his tiny boat to sail from the U.S. back to Australia. The two of them have absolutely no idea what they are doing, are completely stupid about some things, fall out, fight, and see beautiful places. But ultimately, Torre (its a true story) doesn’t really love life at sea, while her boyfriend would continue travelling on a boat forever, if he could. I have to admit the style of writing at the beginning drove me mad and I wasn’t sure if I could keep going with it. Elements of the stubborn personalities of both Torre and her boyfriend also really annoyed me. But I recognised so much of the cruising lifestyle that it made me feel really nostalgic, and ultimately I quite enjoyed it. I wouldn’t generally recommend it though…
Girl at war by Sara Novic – Click the link for the full review – a really harrowing but ultimately enjoyable novel that left me open-mouthed in shock at some parts. 
The destruction of Guernica by Paul Preston – this book was a short but brutal look at exactly what went on in Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. Incredibly interesting for anyone who wants to know more about Spanish history, or indeed, about the background to Picasso’s famous painting.
How to be both by Ali Smith – click the link to read the full review. After a tricky start, I couldn’t put this book down.
Winter in Madrid by CJ Samson
 – I LOVED this book. Specifically I think because I am currently living in Madrid and could really see all of the scenes depicted by the writer. Imagining the Castellana, the road I walk down every day to get to work, hung with Nazi flags during the Second World War (in which Spain was technically neutral as Hitler and the UK fought for Franco’s support), and the Casa de Campo, the park in which I cycle, riddled with bomb craters, burnt out tanks and dead bodies – it was all so real to me.
Picasso’s war by Russel Martin – a post to come on this book and on Picasso’s painting as a whole as I am fascinated by it and the interplay between Spanish (and world) history and what happened with the painting. The book is a great mix of art history, biography, and world history and I would really, really recommend it.

On the blog there were:

– all the book reviews mentioned above!

– my musings on Team Sky’s achievement in the Tour de France and Chris Froome

– several posts reminiscing about a year I spent abroad sailing across the Atlantic – from photos as part of a travel theme – land meets water – to discussing the start of our trip, the things we took with us and had to leave behind in An Ounce of Home, and starting to tell the story of the first few months through the things that went wrong!

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– more about Madrid – the definitive(!) What to Do in Madrid post and a post about how much I loved the street food festival that is MadrEat.

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– several more travelling posts, about Valencia, Athens and what we did on the island of Spetses in Greece.

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– and finally a post about my next big sporting challenge! (As well as all the usual weekly updates about my training).

My best moment in July was….. Argh I have no idea! I am not sure I can choose this. Lazy days on beaches and club sandwiches in Spetses, chatting to James over glasses of nice wine on a rooftop bar in Athens, the Parthenon lit up in the distance, hiking with James in the mountains outside Madrid…. So many wonderful moments this month.

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Right now I am….

Reading: my favourite book ever, Where the Rainbow Ends by Jameson Currier, for about the fourth time. It still had me in tears.

Nervous about: fitting in training for my first half Ironman next month, while also having visitors to Madrid, enjoying my last month there, AND going to a wedding in Italy. There are at least two weekends that I will be able to barely anything which means I will have to be pretty diligent about some early mornings.

Listening to: more podcasts! I listened to this particular TED talk by Margaret Heffernan: Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work.

She made some really interesting points about how high-achieving, efficient teams tend to be those that get on and that actually talk about problems in order to solve them. One example is of the engineering firm building the stables for the London Olympics. They hadn’t built a building of this type before and had to work out how much waste (horse shit!) they had to cater for. Rather than spending ages using formula etc to work it out, it took them one day to find a company who had built a similar building in New York and ask them. She also talks about companies who are banning people from drinking coffee at their desks as they want their employees to take coffee breaks together. It made me think about some of the upgrades to my office back in London at the moment – they have done up all the kitchen areas and made much nicer seating areas, including putting plug sockets for phone chargers etc in the seating booths. One of my colleagues joked “do they really think we’ll be sitting there long enough to charge a phone?!” But perhaps that was the point – to create more of an atmosphere where we can sit and chat about the work that we’re doing and problem solve.

Enjoying: well right now (when writing this) I am sat in a sunny square in Santiago de Compostela enjoying a cafe con leche so I am just enjoying life! (I am dreading the 9 mile run I have planned for this afternoon though… Far too tired for that!)

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Excited about: having a day and a half off work next week as James is visiting for a long weekend to celebrate his birthday! Lots of food, lots of wine, lots of lazy mornings reading in bed. Next week is a “rest week” on my training plan after all!

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