Go Away!

But don’t go too far - I’ve migrated my blog over to a new address!!

http://lifelauralondon.com/

See you over there. 

Go now!

i love stats

At the beginning of December I accepted the challenge to run 80 miles in a month. It was tough as there were a lot of hangovers Christmas Parties, a few injuries and really bad weather. As of today though, I’ve made it to 80.08 miles (132.1km) for the month. Yay!

As you can see I also included the all important annual stats such as 430.19 Doughnuts burned in 235 workouts (Running, barrecore, cycling, yoga). 

December was a huge month for me as you can see below, I only ran more last January while training for the Brighton Half. 

I also checked out some of my interesting trends on Nike+

That 8.06km on the treadmill was the worst run of my life. Never again.

Here’s to some more good looking bar graphs in 2013. 

2012 was the year of medals. No golds for us, but enough of the others!

2012 was the year of medals. No golds for us, but enough of the others!

2013

I do a lot of great things with Nike Training Club and Nike Running here in the UK. They’ve asked me to set some goals with the other ladies in the Nike Community as a part of their #makeitcount campaign.

I’ve got loads of goals for 2013, but in the interest of keeping it Nike+ based we’ve set out to achieve 1,000,000 fuel points in 2013. 

So it will be more NTC Live classes…

And more yoga classes…

And more Running Clubs…

And especially more races with good friends and husbands…

I really do believe in a lot of what Nike has been promoting to get everyone (especially women) out and more active in easy and fun events. I don’t work for Nike nor have I been asked to promote anything in return for freebies or cash.

trail running in London’s longest linear nature reserve

I’ve been sticking to running the roads of London (with a few parks thrown in) for the following reasons:

Excuse #1 - I didn’t know of any good trails.

I had heard rumours of an amazing trail that started at Finsbury Park (a mile from our flat) and followed a disused railway along a ridge for 7k up to Alexandra Palace.  This trail achieved myth status when I actually saw Finsbury park with my own eyes and could not believe there was a woodlands anywhere near it. 

Solution #1 - Trust the map and just find the darn trail. 

Excuse #2 - I needed daylight

Running alone in the dark as a woman isn’t the safest thing even along busy, well-lit streets.  I wasn’t about to go for a jog in a dark, unknown forest alone. (Even with my SafeGirl personal alarm - thanks Boutique Sport!)  The winters in London are dark, and my weekends are busy. Finding some daylight hours to test out the trail was near impossible.

Solution #2 - My office closes from December 21 - January 2 and since we’re not going anywhere for the holidays I suddenly have a lot of daylight hours that will not be spent at a desk in an office buildling.

Excuse #3 - I didn’t have trail shoes

As far as excuses go, this isn’t a good one. I know I could have ran a trail easily in one of my 3 pairs of running shoes, and short of some mud stains, nothing would be much different.  

Solution #3 - Have trail shoes magically show up on my doorstep one Monday evening

I saw that the Brooks Running had some samples left from their Pure Project tour to still give away (why interacting with brands on Twitter is awesome) and low and behold, they sent me a pair of their Women’s PureGrit! They’re so orange!

No more excuses TIME TO RUN.

My first impression of the PureGrit shoes were how tight they fit. They’re technically minimalist shoes so they hug your foot much more than my normal road stability shoes.  Since I have size narrow 5.5 feet (same size as Kate Middleton if you’ve forgot) it’s rare running shoes fit me this well.

My second impression was how hard it was to stand up on London side walks in them. They have psuedo-spikes on the bottom and since it’s about a mile and a half to get to the park/trail, I slipped and slid down the big hill to Finsbury Park. Much to the delight of the Halal butchers unloading goat carcases.

I made it in one piece to Finsbury Park and ran straight to the muddy grass. You can see what a beautiful day it was in London. 

The Parkland Trail was easy to find and filled with people walking their dogs. It made me super envious and more determined than ever to find a running dog to rent on Saturdays. Check out this French Bulldog kicking it in the mud.

The trail is really cool as it’s an old railway that was almost completely built before WWII, but after the war was abandoned. There are old platforms still there like this old Crouch End Hill station.

The shoes were so great on this trail. It was mostly muddy, but lots of pebbly parts and the shoes gripped the ground in all conditions. Plus going through a lot of puddles my feet weren’t annoyingly soggy for the whole run. My hairband didn’t last as it flew off into a puddle, so was relegated to my leg for the rest of the run.

All in all it was a (very slow - taking pictures and running isn’t my forte) wonderful 10k run and possibly my favourite run of 2012. 

I’m 10km away from completing the #80milemonth for December and am on the verge of signing up for a Spring half marathon, so hopefully there will be more trail runs like this in my future.

Ever wonder what I would sound like if I had moved to Newcastle instead of London? 

Geordie to English translation below

A hoyed a wish in the well
Don’t ask us al’ never tell
A looked at you as it fell
But now y’in me way

Swapped me soul for a wish
Coppers and quids for a kiss
A wasn’t lookin for this
But now y’in me way

Your stare was hawlding
Ripped jeans, skin was showing
Canny neet (night) the wind was blowin
Wher y’think your ganin da’lin

Here, a just met y’like
Nd this is mental
But heres me number
So giz a ring will y’pet

It’s solid to look right
At y’da’lin
So here’s me number
So giz a ring ill y’pet AYE??

Y’took the mick with the call
A tuk no time with the fall
Y’giv us bugger all
But still y’in me way

A beg n borra n steel
T’take y’out for posh meals
A didn’t na a wud feel
But now y’in me way

Your stare was hawlding
Ripped jeans, skin was showing
Canny neet (night) the wind was blowin
Wher y’think your ganin da’lin

Here, a just met y’like
Nd this is mental
But heres me number
So giz a ring will y’pet AYE? OY A HAMMA AWA HERE WEY AI

Before y’swanned into me life 
A proper missed y’
A proper missed ‘like
A proper geet missed y’like pet

Before y’swanned into me life 
A proper missed y’
A proper missed ‘like
A proper geet missed y’like pet

Here, a just met y’like
Nd this is mental
But heres me number
So giz a ring will y’pet

It’s solid to look right
At y’da’lin
So here’s me number
So giz a ring ill y’pet WEY AYE PET

christmas in the office

It’s a big day in my office today.

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Last night we had our office Christmas lunch/pub quiz/night out and some of us are  a little worse for wear today, guess how we cured it?

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And thanks to Christmas gifts from other companies, we’re getting through the day with no risk of hunger or chocolate-withdraw.

image

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As if that wasn’t enough Christmas cheer, we were lucky to be visited by Santa’s favourite helpers.

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Finally, our office was featured in a highly respectable design magazine for our effort in Christmas decorations.

All that and we haven’t even started the School’s Christmas party for Administrative staff tonight. #iamholidayexhausted

2 keys to winter running

You don’t need long pants or tall socks - there are really only 2 things you need to run in the winter.

1. A pre-warmed outfit. (genius idea and radiator courtesy of Cake of Good Hope)

2. Chapstick. Putting even a little Vaseline on your lips before a run improves your run by 1,000,000%. Fact. I obviously prefer the new champagne version.

Just when you think you’ve seen everything in London (photo via @scoobschris)

Just when you think you’ve seen everything in London (photo via )

Ice Skating at Somerset House is so mandatory during the holiday season that I’ve gone twice in one week. 

Saturday at the Brockley Market. Exploring SE London with the experts! Food & Mulled Wine courtesy of @Egg_boss @MotherflipperUK @fleishmob.

wacky races

The December issue of Running Free is out featuring an interview with yours truly.  The lovely Laura Fountain of Lazy Girl Running wrote the cover story on Wacky Races and asked for my insight into running in costume.  

You can read the whole magazine here with the article starting on Page 18.

coffee point

When I saw that @eightpointnine was offering a new service in London to create and deliver a coffee just to your taste right to your door I signed up right away.

The coolest part is you get to name your blend - I chose Coffee Point Mornings to remind me of some of my favourite mornings of my life enjoying a coffee with friends before whatever adventure I was about to embark on.  

Thanks Eightpointnine for the awesome idea (and @gogogojulia for sharing so many coffee point mornings!)

FYI This isn’t sponsored at all. No freebes or anything. A friend of a friend mentioned they did this and I thought I’d give it a try.


The Daily Mail does a lot of things wrong, but this article on Kate Middleton’s hair style options is the best thing I’ve seen in YEARS.

The Daily Mail does a lot of things wrong, but this article on Kate Middleton’s hair style options is the best thing I’ve seen in YEARS.

further leave to remain

I’m not an immigration advisor by any means and highly recommend if you are looking for advice on your UKBA application you go through the OISC approved solicitors on the UKBA website.

That said, when I was looking for information on how to apply for leave to remain in the UK there was a huge gap of anecdotal information that I needed to support the (sparse) advice the UKBA gave on their website.


Please let me stay!

So here’s my experience:

I have been living in the UK on a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa for about 22 months, which has been the greatest opportunity and I hope they do not get rid of it in the every changing immigration rules.

I was worried I’d have to go back to Canada to re-apply for entry after my Tier 5 expired.  The UKBA website says you cannot switch to a points based visa, but doesn’t say anything else about other settlement options.  Once, at the airport, a UKBA officer even told me that I would get denied if I applied to switch to the spouse of a settled person while staying in the UK. Needless to say I was confused.  When I called the UKBA helpline I was also told it wasn’t possible to switch but when I said, really? Are you sure? He then checked with his manager and told me it was possible. So, there I was an at best shaky “Yes” and a lot of “No” answers. 

I confirmed with a few other people I knew, and this very helpful expat forum that I could apply for the FLR(M) Further Leave to Remain (Marriage) and decided to go ahead with it. 

The state of the UKBA right now is pretty tough. They’ve just laid off a large portion of their workforce and instituted changes to the rules for most visa and settlement applications so they require more time and effort to make decisions on.  It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that this is leading to longer wait times for applicants and more work for already over-worked UKBA officers. 

To apply for a FLR(M) you can apply via post or in person at a PEO appointment.  If you apply via post you just fill everything in, put all your supporting documents into a box and send it off. If you apply in a PEO appointment you pay more (about £300 more) and you take all your documents to their office and they make a decision based on those documents right there and then that day.  At the moment, postal applications are taking 6-9 months for decisions. That’s 6-9 months without your passport, without your partners passport, and if you ask for it back (even if it’s a family emergency) your application is forfeited and you lose the application fee. 

Needless to say we chose the PEO appointment route.  To get a PEO appointment you either have to go through an immigration solicitor (they get access to more appointments and if you’re in a rush this is the only way to go) or get an appointment on the UKBA website.  The PEO appointment route is obviously very popular at the moment so appointments are scarce. They are released every day at midnight for a date 43 days in advance.  The website itself always crashes right at midnight due to the amount of people logging on and it took me about an hour of refreshing the page to finally get an appointment… in Liverpool. There are a few offices much closer to my home in London, but I took what I could get. 

Then I got my documents together. The UKBA asks you provide original (no copies) evidence of the following: relationship, co-habitation, employment, and finances so eventually my evidence looked like the picture below.  There is now a new rule in the UK that you or your sponsor must make over £18,600/year for your application to be approved.  It’s highly debated whether this is a rule that should apply to family settlement options, but unfortunately it’s the rule and if you want to apply now you have to prove it.

On the date of our appointment we went to the office in Liverpool which was easy to find and we spent a nice morning in Liverpool going to the new Liverpool Museum (learning what a Lambanana is) and wandering the really nice shopping area near the train station.  It’s a great city to walk around in.

We arrived about 40 minutes early for our appointment and were seated right away which was nice.  For the first 45 minutes it was up and down as we had an initial document check, made the fee payment, and had biometrics taken. 

When it was finally our turn to see a case worker she could not have been more friendly. She took our basic documents (and laughed at my massive binder of supporting documents that weighted about 3kg) and the form and then told us to have a seat and wait a bit more. 45 minutes later the whole thing was done and I had the letter in my hand! 

All in all we spent an hour and a half in the office. From entry to receiving approval. It didn’t seem busy at all so not sure if people aren’t showing up for their appointments or what!

Like many other people I over-prepared to an embarrassing level. I had about 1000 pieces of paper that proved relationship, co-habitation, employment, and finances, but all the UKBA official took was the:

form 
passports
ID photos
marriage certificate
pay slips (6 months)
bank statements (6 months printed at the bank with stamp)
letter from employer
original employment contract
tax documents
a few utility bills under both our names

No lease, no bank statements of my spouse, no letters of introduction or marriage photos, nothing else! She didn’t ask us any questions other than if we were previously married either. 

After the initial stress of preparing the application not quite knowing what I needed to include, the experience was great and the staff at the Liverpool PEO were really helpful and nice.  

So there we go. I’m allowed to stay! life.laura.london for another 30 months at least :) 


*FYI the suitcase wasn’t for a quick departure if it wasn’t approved - it held the massive document of proof that was too heavy to carry!

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