Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Better together

So I'm getting married this weekend, which means I'm switching off the internet for a few days and enjoying real life.

It's been a very stressful few months but I'm finally starting to really look forward to it.

So young!
You see, I wasn't ever that fussed about having a wedding...

Or getting married, for that matter...

But when we got engaged and I realised that someone wanted to marry ME... well that's a pretty nice thing.  And I realised that I just wanted to be married, and wanted to skip the wedding part.

This is my all time favourite photo of us. 
But once we'd set the date and committed to the wedding so many tiny little decisions presented themselves every day.  It's been like a second job, managing this crazy beast.  And it's not just black and white because people are involved.  And feelings.  And stress isn't just black or white either, it evolves into anxiety and in my case, a bit of depression.  It's been a journey, let me tell you.  And our wedding is a 'small' one... I can't imagine what it's like to organise anything bigger than 50 guests, or family less helpful or kind or loving than mine.

It's been a learning experience in having a 'vision' at the start of a project and learning that when humans are involved, things aren't going to turn out how your imagined but that what really matters is the people, not the vision. It's been a learning experience in having a support network for when you think you're ok but you're not ok.

But over the past few days when I've told various people I've run into that I'm getting married at the weekend and they ask am I nervous... I can't think of what to answer.  I'll take nervous any day! Heck, I've been through a lot of stress these past few months - enough to send me running to the doctors! And nervous is lovely in comparison!

So yea, I feel a giddy lovely nervousness.  I get to put on a pretty dress and have my makeup done and I get to see my handsome man all dressed up smart! I get to have all of my best people in one room together, and see them interacting.  I have spent the whole day on the phone to people today - that's more than I can say for a lot of the last year.

I've kept a lot of the wedding planning secret - mainly because until now everything has felt a bit - not fully done- and I'm just not THAT into the whole weddingness.

But I thought I'd share some photos of the Save The Dates I designed for us to send to our guests back in August.

It's all starting to feel real... and as I start to get a little nervous I can smile and think that all the hard work is finally paying off.  Goodness, I am excited!

New to the family

Some new characters on the scene.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Keep your head up, keep your heart strong

Sporting events.  Weddings.  Public speeches.  Family events.  Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you need a tiny bit of inspiration - a push - a little reminder that you're close to the finish line you just gotta keep going.  I've got a brand new set of motivational temporary tattoos, for you to wear somewhere visible to keep you going.  There's 6 different designs to choose from, available now through my online shop!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hello Mr Hedgehog

I've recently been having an extra pair of hands in my studio as things have been getting busier. This here helper is Caroline, a Manchester - based illustrator with a penchant for primary colours and woodland creatures. I'm pretty excited to show you this little project we worked on together - a super cute Mr Hedgehog pillow. Available to purchase now from my online shop.  Check out Caroline's website for more cool stuff!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Gearing up, stocking up, making lots of goods

Just a few photos from life in my little studio recently.  Gearing up towards the holiday season!!!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Listen to your pillows

If you've been being all weak and feeble lately why not seek the help of these pillows, they'll tell you to stop being such a sissy and grow a pair.

Gift idea number 43

Just another couple portrait I did a little while back.  This was given as a gift for a September wedding. I'm biased but I think these portraits make pretty good gifts. I've updated my website with recent portraits I have done for families of all sizes - pets, too.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Believing in feeling good.

I love Thursdays.  Especially when the sky is so blue, the sun is shining, and my other half gets up first and cooks eggs.  Trying to decide on some races to sign up for over the winter months, to focus on. Feeling happy and blessed.

No Bones About It

In case you were worried for the lack of dogs and cats and the abundance of running-related posts here on this blog.... well, worry no more.  I give you dog stationery.  I give you postcards and stickers.  All ready to paw-chase from my etsy shop.  I also have one set of dog stationery to give away.  All you gotta do is pick your FAVOURITE product from my shop and tweet who you would buy it for. Include @nicolarowlands and #giveaway in the tweet.  A winner will be chosen tomorrow at 7pm! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Marathon recap

On October 6th 2013 I ran my second ever marathon.  You see, earlier this year when we were setting the date for our wedding I decided that getting married and turning 30 in one month just wasn't enough life events for me so went and signed up to run 26.2 miles just to kick the month off in good fashion.

Because the race itself only had 500 entrants (1,000 in total: 500 for the full marathon and 500 for the half marathon) it really was a very small event.  I have left this race review a bit, thinking that I would have received a link by now with some of my race photos so that I could include them in the post... but as I didn't actually see any photographers throughout the race apart from one guy when I crossed the finish line I've not decided to hold out hope any longer.  So sadly you don't get to see my ugly mug finishing the race.  I can however provide you with photos of other people:

This bit along the seafront happened twice in the race: around 12 miles and around 24 miles.  It was lovely - and as you can see - very sunny! (although at 25 miles to be honest I wasn't in a taking-in-the-scenery kind of mood!)

This was the start of the race - at the local college!  Quite different to the Champs Elysees in Paris but you know what, I found it really calming not having so many people around me.  I didn't get that panicky feeling of thinking I should be doing whatever race preparations the guy next to me is doing that I sometimes get at a big race.  Less of a fight for toilets, no queues for baggage... really nice start to the day.

And this is what a lot of the race looked like.  Look how much room there is between runners!  So much space.  Parts of the race were like this, through neighborhoods, and a lot of the course was on country lanes.  The bits on the country lanes were actually really, really windy - I found this tiring and hadn't expected the wind.  But the country lanes also allowed me to be calm and just focus.  It was lovely and quiet.

We stayed the night before in Louth, a nice cathedral town about 20 mins away from Mablethorpe.  For breakfast I had yoghurt with chia seeds, a slice of toast, cup of tea and some blackberries.  I think I also had a banana once I got to the college and some beetroot juice.  The changing area was in a very old sports hall!

For all of my training I said I just wanted to complete the race in under 4 hours.  As it got closer to race day I kind of started convincing myself I could do it faster than just under 4 hours. So I started at a quicker pace and although I thought I could keep it up I did inevitably get slower during the second half of the race.

Although - do you see where my pace gets quicker during miles 19-22? Well I caught up with a girl who was a similar height and build as me and we fell into pace together.  I couldn't tell whether I was pulling her along or she was pulling me along.  We didn't say anything to each other or even acknowledge each other, but each time we passed another runner we passed them together, and fell back into step again.  It was pretty cool and after the race I went to find her to say thanks.  She said "no, thank you, you carried me!" Turns out it was her first marathon - it felt like she'd done it before though, the way she paced me during the race.

This was a two lap course.  Not only that but the half marathon started at the same time as the full marathon, meaning half of the runners dropped out of the race after the first lap.  I was a little worried about this and how it would affect me - but I found it to be a good thing.  You knew where you were going for the second lap, and knew there weren't going to be any surprises.

This is the first race I've run without headphones.  I made the decision a few weeks before the event - as I had started more and more to train without music.  And it was wonderful!  I felt calm and could get into a nice rhythm - almost a meditation.  For some reason, I just kept saying to myself: Just be here, now.  That's all you need to think about.

I also looked forward to hearing something from the people who were watching.  Not that the crowds were massive - but a friendly smile or a 'you're doing great' was surprisingly much more motivational than Katy Perry blaring into my ears.  And a few times along the route I chatted with fellow runners.  One guy at mile 10 or so seemed to be having a tough time and I asked him if he was ok and he said 'just having a bad day' - and then at the very end of the race he was stood by the sidelines and shouted to me 'really well done, great race.'

When I finished I was immediately thanked by the Mayor and received a handshake from the man who had finished right in front of me.  Shortly after I had taken a little rest and went off to find my medal and race pack, I was congratulated by a couple of ladies who I hadn't even seen during the day, who told me I ran a 'really lovely race' - I bumped into a few others who I had seen along the route and passed on the congratulations to them - this is just something I have not experienced at bigger races.  This event really did live up to its name! They call it 'The Friendly One' for a reason!

Anyways - the long and the short of it is I got my sub - four finishing time.  No injuries, no problems, and close enough to home to be on the couch by 7pm.  I could happily turn 30 with a 3.57 marathon personal best.  Not only that but I found out I finished 9th female out of 45 female runners and came in 95th place overall out of 220 runners.  That'll do for me.

Friday, October 11, 2013

All about me

Because I've been planning a wedding and running a small business and training for a marathon all at the same time, some things slip through the cracks and go by without me giving them the proper attention they deserve.  Back in August, Creative Tourist interviewed me as 'Maker of the Month' at design shop Fig + Sparrow to celebrate contemporary craft. We chatted about how I started my company and why I like living in Manchester and they took a bunch of photos of me including this one where I am looking deceivingly pensive.  Read more if ya like...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

On recovery

As I ran a marathon on Sunday and the response from most friends and family yesterday was 'are you broken?' I thought I'd write some words on my recovery and the reasons why I'm not broken.

When I crossed the finish line I did feel broken.  My legs were fine - walking wasn't an issue - (it was an issue after Paris) - I just had to lie down on the grass for a little while and appreciate lying down on the grass (if you've run a marathon, you might agree - focusing on an ice cold can of coke or lying down on the grass can seriously get you through a good couple of miles.  When you finally get to do it, you really have to block out all distractions and just enjoy that lie down.) 

A cold can of coke, half a portion of chips and a chat with some of my (very friendly) fellow racers later, and I was fine.  We went for coffee and cake in a local cafe and drove back to Manchester.  

A massive plate of food and an early night really was the extent of my recovery procedure on Sunday. I must say I probably didn't stretch as much as I could've, mainly because I was insanely tired and once I was on the couch, I was on the couch.  

Yesterday I got up not knowing whether I'd be ok to walk - day after marathon legs are always a bit stiff.  But to my surprise, my legs did what they do best! Some stretching and a hot bath and I coordinated my outfit around my compression tights: 

I got sent these 2XU leg sleeves a while back and have been using them for after my long runs.  

They're like hugs for your legs.  

Do you run in compression wear?  I've used compression calf sleeves before, and I cannot get along with them.  They instantly make my legs tired when I'm running.  But compression wear after a long run? Yes please.  These ones go all the way up to just under your bum (and I have very long legs so they're definitely long enough) and they're made of special fabric that isn't sweaty or itchy.  It's soft and nice.  The fabric puts pressure on your legs and basically improves blood circulation and helps remove blood lactates for faster muscle repair.  And the nice bit about them is you can pop them on under a dress and noone knows. 

Now you see em
 Now you don't

I wore mine to bed once after my 20 mile training run.  Really lovely and cosy.  I've also worn them around the house with a pair of shorts.  I'm no scientist or physio so I can't tell you how much they work, but second to lying down on the grass and indulging in that ice cold can of coke, this recovery ritual is one I'd recommend.