Almost there…!

I can’t believe I’ve done 49 parkruns! Next week is my 50th, whoop whoop! If you’re not well acquainted with parkrun check out the website for more info – it’s a free 5k event every Saturday all around the UK, and indeed the world. And getting to 50 parkruns is a milestone achievement. They even send you a parkrun T-shirt with ‘50’ printed on the back. The next milestone is 100 which is just amazing (I think you then get a jacket).

When I woke up on Saturday to go to parkrun I was disappointed with the weather: cold and wet. I wasn’t really feeling it like I was last weekend so I thought I might just plod round. Surprisingly though after I warmed up I felt more alive and ready to go. Even more surprisingly I was only two seconds slower than last week: 21:07.

Netley Abbey March parkrunWhat was lovely to see as well was a younger guy, Robson, from our running club getting a PB. He’s literally on fire smashing every PB in sight. It’s phenomenal the improvements he’s made since last year. To put it into perspective, a bunch of us from the club had helped pace him last year on parkrun. Now he’s blowing everyone out of the water – minutes ahead in his half marathon and 10k times (times I dream of!). What’s really lovely is he’s such a nice person with a big heart so he truly deserves it. Couldn’t happen to a nicer chap.

I caught up with some friends later for a good old chinwag and then headed to my parents to, er, maybe have another Indian takeaway (bit déjà vu to last week I’m afraid). It was lovely though, even if I did have to suffer through The Voice again…damn that Rita Ora making me like her. ;-) And seriously, what is Will I am on?! He’s mental!

The next morning I woke up and walked Alfie. The weather was awful. The wind was just incredible and it was cold and wet. I did not foresee a pleasant run! I had 13 miles planned and I almost backed out as a lot of it was along the sea front. I knew I’d regret it all day though if I didn’t so I put on my capris (not shorts, ohhh no!) and my windproof jacket and got out there.

I had big plans of sticking to a strict 8.15-20min/mile pace but as I set off I just knew this would be impossible. When the wind blew behind me I sailed along effortlessly, but then when it blew at me it was like running through treacle. So I just did what I could without pushing too hard.

Because I had eaten a lot of salty tandoori chicken the night before I had been thirsty all night, meaning I drank an entire pint of water and then more in the morning. Unfortunately this resulted in my needing a pee stop two miles in. Luckily along the beach there were public toilets that were open so I was OK (despite it requiring a huge amount of force to open the damn door because of the wind).

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My pace is all over the place purely because of the wind. It was definitely a tough run and I felt exhausted at the end. But I felt strong at the same time and let my mind just float away listening to a podcast, leaving me mentally refreshed and free. My hair though is another story; windswept doesn’t quite cover it.

Because I hadn’t eaten breakfast before I went (I never really do before a long run) and it was almost 11am by the time I got home I realised I needed to be sensible. For lunch we were going to head to Jamie’s Italian and the table was booked for 1.30pm and I knew I couldn’t eat breakfast straight away as I never can straight after a run. So I decided to have a shower and get ready and then have a smoothie to tide me over until lunch, rather than fill up on breakfast and not fancy lunch. I never have smoothies but as my parents have a Nutrbullet and have been spouting the wonders of it to me I was tempted.

IMG_0204Unfortunate placement of daffodils there…

In the mix were strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, with almond milk, natural yogurt, a whole lot of kale and that Nutriblast Superboost stuff in the photo (it’s a blend of cacao, macha, goji and hemp).

FullSizeRenderIt wasn’t overly sweet but it was tasty and it definitely filled a hole until I got something proper. My dad was chuffed as he got a glassful as well. I love that my parents drink smoothies! It makes me proud ;-)

Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth was unbelievably windy but ducking into shops helped! Then we got to Jamie’s Italian ready for lunch. And I was definitely ready for food!

Jamie's Italian, Portsmouth

Yes I know I have a slight obsession with this restaurant (I can’t count how many times I’ve been there) but I just love it. And as a tip if you’re a fellow lover, get a Gold Card. It costs nothing (just register on the website) because you get lots of freebies when you show them your card before you order. Over the years I’ve had £10 off meals, free drinks, a free side, free little appetisers to try – it’s so worth it!

This time we had a free tester of a risotto meal.

IMG_0214 It was only a very small portion (on a saucer really) but it’s lovely to have a taste of something random. It was so tasty and rich – though I’m not sure I could have had a full meal of it.

For main…oh I know I’m so predictable. But this is literally one of my favourite meals in the whole world (aside from ribs obviously). I don’t even know why! I just love the Turkey Milanese.

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It’s such a huge portion that I need nothing else with it. Though we did get a free side of polenta chips as part of being a Gold member so a couple of those helped ;-) And it tasted just as good as usual (well, better as 13 miles really heightens the taste of everything!)

And for pudding I had the Epic Brownie.

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A delicious warm brownie with caramelised popcorn and vanilla ice cream. Heavenly. I was beyond stuffed, but so very satisfied.

A bit more shopping commenced (hello Nike shop – outlet prices with a 30% off on women’s clothes!) and then time for home. I gave Alfie a walk (to also help with digestion…) and then plonked myself on my sofa and watched Masterchef (love that programme) and some horrific show called Rich Kids of Beverley Hills. Car crash telly but for my tired body and brain it was all I needed! ;-)

How was your weekend?

What’s your TV guilty pleasure?

Are you a smoothie fan? I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority with not being that big a smoothie fan, but I did enjoy it on Saturday so who knows!

Finding the small things

I don’t know about you but when I get stressed, or angry, or sad sometimes I can find myself wallowing in the emotion. This isn’t good to do for long periods of time obviously. It’s not good for your mind, your health or you spirit.

Pardon my French, but when the shit hits the fan I just want to run away and hide. I want to moan, cry and beat my fists: “why me?”. But what good does this do really? OK sometimes it’s very cathartic and I’m not saying to have a good cry is wrong from time to time. But you still have your life to live and things to get done. So when I’m feeling this way I try and find stuff to keep me smiling and make me happy.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love reading. I’m a self-confessed book worm and I am not ashamed! After the very sad death of Terry Pratchett I realised I hadn’t actually read many of his books (possibly just one, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents which was one of his younger books). My dad is a huge Terry Pratchett fan so I asked his advice about where to start because the Discworld (where most of the books are set) is massive. I was slightly dubious as I’m not that into fantasy but I thought I’d give it a crack. My dad leant me Going Postal and I’m hooked.

Going Postal Terry Pratchett Source

It’s exactly what I need right now – a story about a world far enough from reality that I can forget any problems I have and just sink into the story. For me reading is a brilliant escape and perfect to help you relax just before you go to bed (that terrible time when the demons always appear).

And in daily life seeing the hints of spring always makes me feel good. Knowing that better weather is round the corner, lighter evenings, lighter mornings and wearing less layers.

Spring daffodilsLet’s not think about losing an hour this weekend though! Meaning my 5am gym wake-ups might feel like 4am for a bit. Dear lord.

And spring time means my motivation to walk Alfie is far higher. It’s no longer a trudge through the cold, but sometimes the sun is shining and it’s just perfect. I know I keep going on about them, but the Jabra ear buds are also making walks with Alfie easier.

IMG_0174 Having a dog lead and ear phone cables to contend with makes things a bit stressful and occasionally I’ll accidentally catch the cable and yank one from my ear, which is always painful. But as the Jabra ones are wireless it means just one thing to contend with – Alfie…who’s hard enough on his own with chasing birds and pooing in bushes!

Obviously running makes me happy and is a fabulous escape and refresher of the mind. I’ve been running the same very hilly 10k(ish) route every week around Basingstoke where I work before I go home on a Wednesday night. Strava is brilliant because it let’s me compare runs when I do the same route. I’ve now done this route five times and so far I’ve just kept improving slightly.

image To be honest though I don’t think I can continue this trend. It is a hard run and I’m not sure how much faster I can do it. But it’s not necessarily just about the speed for the run – it’s about those horrific hills and the strength I’m hoping I’m building up in my legs.

image There’s no point just running easy flat routes all the time. Make your training hard to make racing easy is my plan. Though always remember to make it easy when your body tells you to – we’re not superheroes!

As I run from work on a Wednesday night it means I’m not going to get dinner until I get home. So by the time I’m home and dinner is prepared it can be at least an hour and a half later. I do need something to refuel me to make the next day not feel like hell. The people from Upbeat sent me some protein smoothies to review for my blog.

IMG_0167 So I’ve been taking them to work and having them post-run on a Wednesday night when I drive back home. Luckily we have a fridge at work so I just grab it as soon as I’ve finished my run and drink while I do some stretching in the mini work gym.

Upbeat smoothie Post run stretch and refuel

Upbeat drinks are dairy protein drinks. They’re high in protein (20g per bottle – and this comes from whey protein from the milk), low in fat and relatively lower in sugar than most smoothies. Each bottle also has less than 150 calories. The available flavours are Strawberry, Blueberry & Raspberry and Mango & Passion Fruit. The ingredients list reads very nicely without any crazy artificial flavourings or chemicals.

Mango and Passion Fruit Upbeat

My thoughts? I actually really enjoyed these, which I was surprised about as I thought “ooh whey protein and a smoothie? Hmm”. The consistency was fairly thick (like a smoothie) but lovely and, well, smooth. I definitely felt like I was being filled up when I drank it. It didn’t feel like “empty calories”. I never want actual food straight after a run but the length of time between running and dinner is too long to not have something and this fits the bill perfectly.

Upbeat bag

They also sent me a lovely material bag for life and notepad as well, which just made me smile. Maybe I’m not feeling that upbeat right now, but it helps to have a reminder to at least try!

And if all else fails, just have a bit of what you fancy. I don’t believe you should eat for your moods all the time but I do believe sometimes you just bloody well need chocolate.

IMG_0198How good does that sound?? Salted fudge! It’s currently sat in my fridge just waiting…I’ll crack into it soon (no pun intended…) but just knowing it’s there like an old friend ready to help me when I most need it is just wonderful.

How do you get yourself out of dark moods?

What is making you smile lately?

What is your perfect East egg?

***Full Disclosure: I was sent the Upbeat protein smoothies for free to review. All opinions are my own honest ones.***

Running and cake

I know this is so damn clichéd and boring to start with but I don’t care – how amazing is the weather right now?? I’m not sure what it’s like elsewhere in the UK (or world in general I suppose) but in the South Coast of England it is SPRING. The weekend’s weather was beautiful. This is my favourite time of year – such hope of things to come and better days.

My weekend started with a fabulous parkrun at Netley Abbey. It was Netley’s third parkrun birthday so it was all very festive and fun with a Hawaiian fancy dress theme.

IMG_0172I was devastated when I couldn’t find my grass skirt – I love a good fancy dress run! I loved how everyone really got into the theme (though I failed miserably).

IMG_0173And it was lovely weather – a little chilly but beautifully sunny.

We were on the same course but a slight variation. Well, I say slight but really this meant instead of having to deal with six hills (two hills three times) we only had to deal with three hills (one hill three times). I decided to see what had to give on a less hilly course.

I wore my new Jabra Sport Rox ear buds on this run and though I do find them a bit fiddly to fit in my ear snugly (it takes a bit of patience, of which I’m not known for!) when they’re in they are IN. It is great to run without having a wire dangling about you and getting caught on your arms. The sound quality is amazing as well (they’re made with Dolby). I’ll do a thorough review of them soon.

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Photo credit to Kookie51

I can’t believe how good I felt on this run. Yes it was tough in terms of keeping the legs and breathing going but I felt like I was gliding. I also only looked at my watch three times (once per bleep of the mile) – this is MASSIVE for me. Normally I watch my watch like a hawk. I clung on to a running club friend, Mark, who had overtaken me at the start and I vowed to keep in my sights.

IMG_0177 Photo credit to Kookie51

On the last lap I managed to overtake him and speed off but I’d judged it badly and had kicked too soon as he pipped me at the finish when I had nothing left. I might have shouted some abuse at him as he sped past (all good natured of course) but he played it well so kudos to him!

I managed to get first lady (though a lot of people were saving their legs for the Eastleigh 10k the next day) and a time of 21:05 which is the fastest parkrun time since October 2013 according to the parkrun website. Jeeze somewhat depressing but also great to know I’m getting back on track. It’ll be interesting to see how I perform on a flatter parkrun.

After parkrun and usual housework duties, I headed off to my parents to spend some quality time with them. We had a lovely walk down the beach with their three dogs and my Alfie (madness, absolute madness walking four dogs) and enjoyed the fantastic weather.

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Lee-On-Solent beach

We enjoyed a nice Indian take-away that evening and I even suffered through The Voice (*sighs*) though I did have my Runner’s World Magazine and my iPad!! I’m not sure I would have survived otherwise.

The next morning I got up and set off on my 12 mile run. I ran along the beach path which was wonderfully quiet with just the odd dog walker and fellow runner. My run just felt fantastic. My legs felt good and my pace felt easy. I’m getting highly confused with how I should be running these runs at the moment – terrified I’m dicing with potential injuries.

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Average pace 7.52min/mile with a total time of 1:37:42. I attempted to slow down but when I looked at my watch later on the pace had crept up again. I’m just going with it. I won’t be able to sustain this pace for the longer runs so I might as well enjoy it now. I know this might sound ridiculously stupid but honestly that run felt brilliant and today I don’t feel ruined or exhausted. But I know my main issue is not keeping these runs slower.

After this I got home, stretched and foam rolled and had breakfast. A bit later on I went out with my mum and enjoyed a lovely walk, again down the beach. I feel so bad for my mum at the moment as she had such a painful back. She’s been seeing a physio and he’s had to refer her for an MRI as he thinks she has a bulging disc. She has such bad nerve pain all down her back, hip and leg. She finds sitting down for too long excruciating and has to take strong painkillers. It’s awful to see someone you love in so much pain, and you can’t do anything to help. As she said walking helps a bit, we walked down the beach and then cheered ourselves up with a lovely afternoon tea. Oh it’s been too long!!

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The Tea Room in Lee

We umm’ed and arr’ed between the Victoria sponge and red velvet and in the end decided to go for the Victoria sponge. My mum went for a scone and slice of cake as she didn’t fancy the sandwiches but I went for the whole hog, so to speak.

IMG_0185And it was fabulous. The scones are so huge and tasty, they really are the best part I think (slathered in jam and cream). I had delicious chicken sandwiches as well.

IMG_0186  Very scrumptious indeed.

So all in all: good running, good cake and lovely time with my family.

How was your weekend?

Have you ever had back pain?

Do you enjoy fancy dress’? Running or otherwise!

Hello tasty food – Hello Fresh Review

This post has been a long time coming.

[I have not been compensated for this review. I just fancied doing it.]

I mentioned a while ago that I caved into the pressure of a door-to-door salesman touting a Hello Fresh subscription discount. I was that sucker. What’s the one thing they say? Never buy or sign up to someone knocking at your door.

But it did sound very good to me (I hear your thoughts: of course it would). I signed up to the three meals for two people. My discount took £20 off for two boxes and then I could cancel my subscription or continue on at £39 per box. Note how I say per box not per week. You can decide how often you want the box delivered – whether that’s once a week or once a month or whatever.

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But what actually is it? Well, it’s a food and recipe delivery service. In each box I receive the ingredients for three meals and the three recipes to go with it.Hello Fresh February The only thing you need to have is oil/butter, salt and pepper. If the recipe calls for a tablespoon of cornflour then Hello Fresh have made sure to give you a tiny container with exactly that amount. Even teeny tiny bottles of soy sauce or sesame oil. Everything is provided for in the exact amount you need.

The meat is ethically reared, the vegetables are seasonal and fresh and the fish is coastal fresh, line-caught and free from any artificial preservatives. And so far all the ingredients have been in great condition and delicious.

Also, all the packaging and the box are recyclable and you can send back (for free) the cooling wool lining (used to wrap the meats and fridge products) back to Hello Fresh so they can recycle it there.

The meals are well balanced and the portions are brilliant – and considering this is me we’re talking about (the girl with a tiny T-rex inside her) this is something.

Every meal we’ve had so far I’ve enjoyed. There was one meal, a prawn and Serrano ham linguine, that I changed slightly for me (but kept the same for Ben) as I really don’t enjoy pasta. So I served it up with roasted sweet potato fries instead and it worked perfectly.

These aren’t super fast meals though. It takes me roughly 30-40 minutes to have it cooked and on the table (though the recipes are very clear and easy to follow).

IMG_9977 Pork loin with leek mash and onion gravy

And the meals often require more pans than I’m used to, meaning lots more washing up. However, I love cooking. I find it a great way to de-stress from work and my long commute. I make sure I read the recipe at work so I know what I’m going to do and then when I get home I just get going. I know I already have everything at hand for the meal.

Pork loin with onion gravy and leek mash Pork loin with leek mash and onion gravy

I’m also learning how to cook better. I’ve never made onion gravy from scratch before or cooked certain cuts of meat so I feel like my culinary skills are broadening and my cooking CV expanding.

IMG_9986 Things like the above photo: I’ve never beat down a chicken breast before to make it thinner and quicker to cook (we have since bought a rolling pin rather than using a tin of chickpeas…).

IMG_9987 Pan-fried chicken and tarragon sauce

All the meals come with their nutritional information and are around 400-800 calories per meal. They’re very balanced in protein, carbs and fat and I’m always left satisfied.

Hello Fresh cooking Fish Pan-fried tilapia with chorizo roasted potatoes

At the end of the week Hello Fresh ask for feedback for the meal and you can say whether you would want it again or not. So if you didn’t enjoy a meal for whatever reason you don’t have to have it again. You can give feedback as well if there was something about the meal you didn’t like or didn’t work for you. You can also see the meals coming up for the next week and you’re able to swap a meal with two other options (I’ve now do this with pasta meals).

Hello Fresh TilapiaPan-fried tilapia with chorizo roasted potatoes

As you can see above, I sometimes add some more veggies (broccoli in this case) to some of the meals as I can’t help myself. Not because the meals aren’t filling (as Ben never needs anything more) but because I just love my veg!

Hello Fresh Chicken mal Chicken Shawarma

All in all, we’re big fans. It makes life so much easier to just know what you’re going to have for three meals in the week. You know they’re going to be filling, nutritious and tasty. It’s definitely something we’re going to continue on.

There are several options of boxes to choose from at Hello Fresh: bigger family boxes, vegetarian ones and the classic one that we have. I think it’s a good value for money for quality, delicious food.

If you’re interested, you can use this code ZVUM4A to get £20 off your first two boxes too. It’s my own referral code (I would then get £12 off my own subscription – just so you’re aware).

Do you have any questions?

Do you subscribe to any weekly or monthly boxes?

Do you enjoy cooking meals from scratch?

Rants and Raves #11

Normally I would recap my weekend but I had a bit of a rubbish one so don’t really want to go through it. So I by-passed Monday’s post altogether.

What I will say is running over 10 miles on Sunday helped. I ran with the mentality of “sod my pace, I literally don’t care. I want to just get out and go.”

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Average pace 7.51mins/mile and I happily sped up toward the end. Was this pace sensible for my first 10 miles in a while? No. Did I enjoy it? Definitely. Mentally I needed that run. And it didn’t actually feel that tough – I felt very relaxed and just let go. But my next long run won’t be like this as there’s really no point. I can push it on other shorter runs if I want to.

Onto slightly more lights things…rants and raves.

Rant: Making a tiny error when ordering our food shopping online. So this is more a rant at myself really.

Too many lettuces

Six lettuces. I’m pretty sure I only want two…how did I manage to order six?! I like salad, don’t get me wrong, but even that’s a bit much for me. Needless to say salads are going to be a big thing this week.

Rave: A while ago I mentioned that I wanted to get more into audio books as I have an hour driving commute to work and then home again. I work at the same place as my dad so occasionally we’ll share lifts but recently I’ve been more on my own and would listen to podcasts. But I’m getting through podcasts very quickly and I like to save a few for running.

imageSo I’ve signed up to the month free trial for Audible (an audio book purchasing site) to try it out (I’m not being compensated or asked to write a review by them, I’m just sharing my experience). After the free month (where you get a free audio book), you then pay a monthly subscription of £7.99 and get one book credit a month which is equivalent to one audio book. This is a lot cheaper than just buying an audio book out-right but it is a subscription service. For me it’s something I’m willing to pay for at the moment as I have a lot of ‘dead’ time and I love books. I can listen to a book and read a book at the same time so there are no issues there (currently I’m reading Stephen King’s ‘Last Stand’ and it’s amazing).

image Source

I’ve just finished ‘Still Alice’ and it was incredible. Initially the author’s voice irritated me but then I warmed to it and got quite attached to her accent. The (fictional) story itself was heart-breaking, tragic but beautiful. Completely told from Alice’s perspective and her experiences in being diagnosed and then struggling with early onset Alzheimer’s. It’s recently come out as a film (and Julianne Moore won the best actress Oscar for her role) which is how I heard about it and it was actually nice to imagine her in my head as the character. I really recommend it, though it did leave me in tears during my commute to work! The only problem is I zipped through that book in less than a week…

Rant: I ran parkrun on Saturday at Netley Abbey and it was a ‘naked’ event. This didn’t mean throwing off your running gear with reckless abandon and running free (and cold…and, er, bouncy) but rather not running with a watch or running app. There was also a competition to guess your time.

Initially I thought I’d put down ten seconds faster than the week before (so 21:50ish) as an incentive to run speedy but then I woke up on Saturday morning not really feeling it and getting cold feet. I quickly changed my time to 24 minutes and decided to run an easier pace. But then I warmed up (or at least tried to, it was so cold!) and started regretting my new time – I felt quite good and fresh. This gave me a rubbish head space just before the start and I was neither here nor there on the pace ending up somewhere in the middle with just over 23 minutes as I wasn’t sure whether to push or not. Then on the final lap I got a horrendous stitch in my side which meant I had to completely stop and sort my breathing out. This has never happened to me before. Yes I’ve had stitches but never to the point they’re so painful I have to stop. And insult to injury (or stitch), because I put my watch in my pocket to record the run but still be ‘naked’, the satellites must have ski-whiffed or something because it didn’t get the whole run recorded despite running exactly the same route as always. Ho hum. Just a bit of a pants run really!

Rave: I’m absolutely stoked about being sent a pair of some very cool looking earphones from the technologically gifted guys at Jabra to review for the blog.

Jabra Sport RoxSadly they’re not the heart rate monitoring ones (yes I know how amazing is that??) as they were out of stock but they’re still pretty damn funky. They’re the Sport Rox wireless ear phones. I’m going to be trying them out on my run tonight. The lack of long cable alone makes me happy :-D A full review will be on its way soon.

Rant: This is minor but at 5.30am in the morning it’s pretty major to me. People who don’t put weights back.

Helly Hansen trainers

I won’t lie, I’m a bit neurotic and OCD when it comes to my strength training. I have certain weight dumbbells for different things (like single leg squats, Russian twists or whatever). But it really grinds my gears (Family Guy anyone…?) when people just remove them and then leave them all over the gym. My gym is a pretty big place and I hate having to walk all around searching for a single dumbbell. Just use them and then put them back in the same place!?

Rave: Even if he’s thrown up everywhere in the kitchen (*sighs* well that was a fun morning last week) I still can’t get angry at Alfie for long. I’d never get angry at him being sick of course, but tugging my arm out of its socket on a walk when he spies a cat doesn’t make me too happy!Alfie ears It’s that “one up, one down” ear thing that always makes me smile. I like to think it’s his pensive look.

What’s grinding your gears this week?

What’s making you happy?

Do you listen to audio books? Do you read a lot?