Rants and Raves #3

I’m feeling grumpy. It can’t be helped really. It’s Thursday, when really it should be Friday.

I don’t want to moan…but I will. Sorry. I’ll try not to just rant the entire post.

Rant: With Ben being away it is quite lonely at the moment at home. I get very set in routines when I’m on my own as well. Walk Alfie, cook dinner, watch TV, go to bed. Nothing exciting really happens. I’m used to having him there to joke and laugh with, or moan and groan at…depends on the day and mood really ;-)

And with the 8 hour time difference it’s a struggle to keep in contact with him. Especially as with him being in China they don’t allow Facebook or Twitter, and I need to wait for him to get access to the limited Wifi in order to either WhatsApp or Skype. Humph.

Rave: Although saying that, with Ben not being here, this means dinner can be whatever I want it to be without having to worry if Ben will a) like it b) eat it.

Chickpea meal

Looks rather grim doesn’t it? But actually it was really tasty. I literally threw chickpeas, Brussels sprouts, courgette, onions, mushrooms and kale together with cream cheese and BBQ sauce. It’s just what I fancied. For me BBQ sauce and cream cheese are big winners.

Rant: perhaps ‘rant’ is too strong a word here…but Ben does make me laugh. He goes to Hong Kong and China and he eats… Italian. To be fair, he can’t go wherever he pleases as he’s with work colleagues but still. He ate Japanese one night which I suppose is at least that vague area of the world to some extent. Though he did tell me he had the strangest Hawaiian pizza which had a sweet dough with tomato sauce, tinned fruit salad, olives and cheese on it. I did say to him he’s probably better off actually eating the local food! *sighs*

Rave: Alfie is very loving at the moment as I’m the only one there. Despite Ben’s side of the bed being free, he still cuddles into me at night. My furry hot water bottle.

IMG_8446 But it also means I’m the one who has to clean up his sick when he wasn’t well the other day. This is usually very firmly a blue job…but currently no blue is here to help.

Rave: getting cool things in the post. I received a Fuelify goodie box which contained a lot of exciting products.

IMG_8459 A full review will be coming soon!

Rant/Rave: a mix of the two if you like. It’s no secret that I hate my commute. It’s a fair way from Southampton to Basingstoke and can take on average an hour (sometimes more) to work and then from work every single day. It grinds on me. Even when it’s plain sailing it still takes 40 minutes. To me this is absolute dead time. The radio is OK but I despair of BBC Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw in a morning (I was a huge Chris Moyles fan – sorry non-Brits, basically Radio 1 sucks as the best DJ left a few years ago and now it’s run by a moron) and I’m not quite ready to switch to BBC Radio 2 (which is aimed at a slightly older audience).

Aaaaanyway, long story short, I’ve signed up to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (30 free days) as I saw they had audio books available too. I do read a lot as well on my Kindle, but thought while I drive I could listen to another book. Normally audio books are fairly hefty in price so I was pleased this was part of the deal. I decided to go for Life of Pi.

I’ve got the book on my Kindle but when I tried to read it I just couldn’t get into it. But listening to it is fantastic! In just over two days I’m 40% into it and it’s so good. I need to see the film as well now. Listening to it in the car just makes the journey zoom by as I get sucked into the narrative.

I’ve also downloaded Great Expectations to listen to next as I’ve never read it. I’m aiming for the more ‘dense’ books as I’ve found I can get into it easier than if I tried to read it. I’m still reading another book at the same time as well. Will see if I’m swayed by this Kindle Unlimited business by the end of the 30 days I think!

And that’s all I have in my current lonely, empty existence…well it’s not all bad. The house is extremely tidy and I’m only using one loo in the house (we have three) so that means only one bathroom needs cleaning this weekend! Wahay it’s the small things, right? ;-) I’m going to my parent’s house on Friday night for an Indian and staying over with Alfie so that should be good. Then really it’s just one week till Ben’s back! Hurrah!

What have been your rants and raves this week?

How do you cope when you’re alone in the house?

Do you listen to audio books?

Fire Up Your Run – Feetures! and Nathan review

Hello! I have another review for you guys. I’m quite excited about the products as most of them are all to do with being visible during your run or cycle – so it’s perfect timing for the current dark mornings and evenings. The lovely guys from 9Point9, the UK distributor of Feetures! and Nathan Sports, sent me a selection of products to test out. Let’s get to it.

Feetures! Socks (find HERE) SRP: £14.99

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I’ll start first with Feetures!, which is a company specialising in performance running socks. What’s great is that they’re conscious of the environment. They use eco-friendly packaging and have an association with the National Forest Foundation, which I think is pretty cool. They also back all of their products with a Lifetime Guarantee. The products are designed to withstand repeated wearing and washing, and to maintain their fit and feel over the lifetime of the product. So if your socks fail to live up to this standard, then you can return them for an exchange or a full refund.

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My socks were the Elite Merino+ which uses a blend of super fine Merino wool and soft rayon (kind of like a pulp?) from bamboo so feel incredibly soft. They insulate when wet so your feet are warm in cool and damp conditions (perfect for right now!) and also have anti-odour properties. There’s a nice bit of compression in the sock too so it “hugs” your foot comfortably and stays in place.

Feetures! SocksThoughts? I really liked them. They were SO comfortable. Almost spongy but not thick. It’s also really nice to find a pair of socks that are hidden in your trainers but don’t slip down. Trainer socks always fail me on this account so I was apprehensive to run in these at first. But they’ve never slipped down. They also have that handy left and right indicator on them so the cushioning is in the correct place. And they wash perfectly fine! No blister issues with these bad boys either (thank god). I will say though that for almost £15 they’re not the most cheap socks, but with a lifetime guarantee and how good they are, it does seem worth it.

Nathan Sports (website HERE)

As the market leader in creating the Running Essentials™ gear, Nathan’s performance-driven products aim to help improve an athlete’s running experience. They specialise in hydration vests, belts, handhelds, bottles, running paks, active visibility and reflective vests, and other gear, all designed to help you run stronger and longer.

I was kindly sent some really snazzy looking visibility gear. I won’t lie, I got quite excited. Especially considering how useful these products would be to me as I run so god damn early in the morning when it’s pretty dark!

LightSpur (find HERE) SRP: £19.99

IMG_8411This LED light attaches to the heel of one of your trainers. I was initially concerned that I’d feel it and it would either annoy me at best or cause me an issue running at worst. But neither of these happened. It fits very securely and you honestly cannot feel it. It has two settings: pure light and then a flashing light. It’s also waterproof (it has survived quite a few rainy morning’s run now!) and runs on replaceable watch batteries (40+ hours of illumination).IMG_8412

Thoughts? I loved it. Honestly, this is a brilliant idea. It’s now something I won’t run without on an early morning or evening run. Anything that can make you more visible to cars, cyclists and pedestrians is a big thumbs up in my book. It takes nothing away from your run so it’s a no-brainer really.

Zephyr Fire 100 Hand Torch (find HERE) STP: £44.99

IMG_8455 This is a torch which is rechargeable (via USB ) and is strapped onto your hand – so you don’t actually have to physically hold it. With 108 lumens and 3 lighting modes, there’s light at the top and a red light at the bottom and the torch has a 24 degree downward projection angle to focus on the path in front of you. There’s also a siren built it that activates when clicked (I’d advice that it’s best not to test this before 6am in the morning when you’re perfectly safe!!)

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Thoughts? I used to consistently wear a head torch on my dark runs but I found it quite annoying and bouncy on my head so I was really chuffed to try a hand-held torch instead. It’s also less expensive than a head torch as well.

IMG_8456 It gives a good beam of light and I love the fact is has a siren. Early morning or late evening running is dangerous, particularly for a lone female. Whether anyone would come and save me is questionable though! But it’s a good deterrent anyway. My only issue is that my arms are always moving when I run so the light flays about a bit and you have to remember it’s attached to your hand. It’s very easy to forget and then point the torch at someone’s house window or a car, which is never good! But I do think it’s brilliant – not only allowing you to be seen but also showing any puddles, tree roots, rubbish etc. that might be hidden on your path in the dark. As a side point, it’s great for when I take Alfie out on his walks because he tends to find the most dark and difficult corners to do his business which makes poop scooping tough work! #dogownerproblems

LightBender (find HERE) SRP: £19.99

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This is an LED band that straps round your arm. It has two settings: regular light and flashing. It’s water resistant and, like the heel spur, has a replaceable watch battery. It’s also very bright.IMG_8452

Thoughts? I have quite thin arms and struggled a little to get it to fit snugly but I got there in the end with fiddling about with the straps. Like the heel spur, this is excellent to make yourself seen. I wear the heel spur on one foot and the armband on the opposite arm which works perfectly. It’s very bright and isn’t uncomfortable at all. A very neat little gadget that makes me very visible to anyone driving or walking nearby.

DomeLight (find HERE) SRP: £39.99

Nathan DomeLight This is very clever. It’s a water-resistant hat with a front white LED light and a rear red LED light. It has 2400 feet of visibility and reflective trims. It’s USB rechargeable and the female version has a hole for your pony tail! There’s also a small pocket to put a house key or what have you. I was fairly excited when I saw this I won’t lie.Nathan Domelight hat

Please ignore how truly horrendous I look – it’s 5.40am

Thoughts? Though I was reluctant to wear a hat so soon into the cold weather season (you gotta save the good stuff for the really cold days to appreciate it more), I quite happily donned this to give it a spin on my runs. What a brilliant idea! It’s no head torch but that’s not what it’s for – it’s for people to see you. It fits snugly, my pony tail fits nicely (as you can see in the photo) and the lights are awesome. Very pleased with this. It’s very warm and snug as well.

Wrist Runner 2 (find HERE) SRP: £9.99

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This is a lightweight fabric wrist pocket. It can fit a credit card, ID, cash, and other small essentials. It’s very stretchy and water-resistant. It comes in two colours – not just pink ;)

IMG_8475Thoughts? This is quite handy as putting things in jacket pockets or wearing a bag can be a bit annoying as they bounce around, but because this is quite form-fitting it doesn’t. On a long run I could keep a debit card (or my parkrun barcode card!) in there which is always handy in case you need to grab a water or something like that. Nothing has fallen out yet either from the pocket. My only quibble with it is that it doesn’t fit on my wrist as I have quite small wrists, but it did fit snugly higher up my arm. I put a key and a card in there and it only slightly slipped down my arm once before I readjusted which was good. It is a little expensive for what it is I think but I like that it’s reflective and it’s useful for carrying a few odd items without going overboard.

Lock Laces (find HERE)

IMG_8406As the pack says, they are elastic shoelaces with a lock-and-clip system. The laces are also reflective.

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Thoughts? I’m currently wearing three different trainers in rotation (Mizunos, Brooks and Boosts) and decided to put the laces on my Mizunos as they have ridiculously long laces and it drives me mad (I have to triple bow them!). The laces were very easy to thread into the trainers and they could be pulled nice and tight so my feet were very secure. You then just snip off the excess lace and then attach the locks and then the clips at the end. I was a little confused with the clip things and struggled a bit with the instructions given on the packet. I’m not entirely sure what they’re for either as the locks hold the laces down quite nicely. But anyway, they work very well. So much easier than faffing about with tying the laces as they’re very easy to tighten and un-tighten. Ideal for triathlons for definite!

Conclusion: these products have really made me think about how easy it is to be seen when running. It is STUPID to go out like a ninja runner without any sort of light or reflective gear on. Yes you’re on the pavement but you still need to be seen – you cross roads, you can be on badly lit roads or paths, and pedestrians are normally completely hidden in darkness so giving them a bit of notice of your arrival always helps (I’ve scared many a dog walker or walking commuter by flying past with no warning). You’re also less of an easy target for someone to stealthily grab you if you’re more visible to everyone.

There really is no excuse. Be visible. Be safe. The Nathan website has loads of great items from lights to reflective gear. Your only risk is looking a bit like a Christmas tree if you rock out all the lights at once ;-)

I would fully recommend the Feetures! socks as well. Expensive though they may be, I fully appreciate anything that makes my feet feel nice and comfortable on a run and don’t slip.

All in all I very good selection of products. Perfect gift ideas for runners or stocking fillers in my opinion!

How do you stay safe if you work out outside in the morning or evening?

Are you a sock snob – do you only wear running-specialised socks? I fully admit I am a sock snob. Compression socks or running-specific only!

What would you prefer: a hand-held torch or a head torch?

 

[Full disclosure: I was sent these products for free to review. All opinions are my own.]

What did you expect?

So Ben left for Hong Kong on Friday. It’s very strange without him. Mind you, it’s very tidy though ;-) He spent the weekend in Hong Kong and today he goes to China (actually he’s just arrived as I’m posting this!). I am beyond jealous and hope to be able to go out with him next time – or for us to continue a holiday on after he does his work stuff. We’ll see!

On Friday I worked from home which is always nice – especially as I got to spend the last few hours with Ben before he left. OK we were both working away on laptops but it was nice to be there with him anyway. Then I had a meeting with Kyle my running coach to discuss my training plan for London, my current running and good advice on running in general. All good stuff. And then Nando’s in the evening with some guys from the running club. I know, I know. I’m fully addicted. Anyway, it kept my mind off the fact I was now Ben-less.

Saturday morning was all the usual stuff of helping set up and doing parkrun. It was all very squelchy and wet so very tricky to get round corners. Again I wasn’t blasting it, just ‘plodding’ it. Though saying that I ran with a lovely girl from the running club whose first parkrun it was and we had decided beforehand on a pace 8-8.30mins/mile which was nice and comfortable. However on the third lap I felt us speeding up and we did the last mile in 7.20!!! I haven’t run a 7.20 in sooo long. I just don’t do any speed work or races at the moment and before Berlin I was trying to be really cautious. Needless to say it was tough. I’m very much out of racing shape at the moment, but that’s OK because I’m just base building. I want to do well at London (OK, I want to not get injured first and foremost) so taking things easy at the moment is paramount. There’s no point burning out before I’ve even got into my training.

After clearing down the parkrun bits and pieces I headed to the cafe where lots of the guys from the club were. They were doing the ballot selection for the London marathon places we’ve been allocated as a running club. I already have my place but I was there representing Ben. In the end Ben got a reserve place, which means if someone gets injured or doesn’t fancy it anymore he gets the place. He has a places at Brighton anyway so it’s not catastrophic, but it would be nice to run Lodnon together (providing Ben isn’t still injured…).

On the way back to the car I saw this little bird having a bath in a puddle which I thought was quite sweet.

IMG_8430 One good thing about puddles I suppose!

Later on after all the usual guff of showering and housework I headed to my parent’s for a spot of afternoon tea down the beach. We’ve been to this cafe before and it’s lovely (the Tea Room in Lee-on-Solent) and very good value.

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The sandwiches are delicious (I had roast chicken on granary) and the scones are the best I’ve ever had. They’re GINORMOUS and lovely and warm. Deliciously soft in the middle with good chunky raisins (sultanas?) in. And a pot of clotted cream and strawberry jam.

IMG_8433I immediately knew which cake I wanted as it just looked fantastic. I am a small child at heart ;-) I went for the angel cake which is a vanilla sponge with jam and butter cream and butter cream icing with hundreds and thousands all over it. I mean come on, it looks amazing, right? My parents sensibly got their cakes to take home (a slice of chocolate orange and a slice of lemon cake). But I was not to be defeated. I did however find myself in quite an intoxicating sugar coma afterwards. It was a good job we’d parked the car so far away that it meant I could have a decent walk in the fresh air to help digest!

I soon went back home to my quiet house and watched lots of easy trashy telly. I also started watching the OC again. I will happily admit I love that programme. No judgement please ;)

Sunday morning, after walking Alfie, I headed out into the lovely rain and ran 10 miles.

IMG_8445 Happily I feel my easy pace is getting faster naturally which is always nice. My week this week was exactly the same as last week in terms of running:

  • Monday: 30 mins easy (3.8 miles) and strength training in gym
  • Tuesday: 30 mins easy (3.8 miles)
  • Wednesday: 30 mins easy (3.8 miles) and strength training in gym
  • Thursday: 30 mins easy (3.8 miles)
  • Friday: Off
  • Saturday: parkrun (3.1 miles)
  • Sunday: 10 miles

A total of just over 28 miles. However I do get worried when I hover around this level of mileage (I know it’s not high in comparison to a lot of other runners). I’m always terrified of injuries. So far things are OK and I think the consistency is helping rather than pushing up higher just yet. And also all my miles are easy paced which, depending how I feel that day in terms of tiredness etc., means a pace of 7.50-8.30mins/miles. My shin is still a bit grumpy from time to time but I’m hoping I’m managing it with some extra strength training, stretching, foam rolling and being sensible. FINGERS CROSSED.

So with Ben being away it was basically chicken, cake and running – what else did you expect? ;)

What do you do when your partner or family goes away?

What mileage do you think your body is naturally comfortable with?

What programmes do you love to watch?

Rant and Raves #2

There’s something rather cathartic about having a bit of moan at times, and also professing my love for stuff, which invariably includes some form of food ;-) I try not to be predictable…but why deny my nature, eh?

Rant: I love my husband (obviously) and I love that he’s really gotten into the whole baking lark. We bought loads of new cake tins and gadgets and we’re about to purchase the rather expensive (though heavily discounted because of Ben being an employee) Kenwood K-Mix. However I was led to believe that him baking would be a regular thing. He threw around the sentence “every other week” quite happily. Has this happened? No. And he’s off to China with work for a while so no homemade cake in the foreseeable future either. Good job I know a lot of afternoon tea joints near me otherwise times would be looking grim.

Rave: I love all these owl-themed things that are going on at the moment.Owls The top right is a necklace I got from Mango at the airport just before we went on our honeymoon, so it holds a special place in my heart (corny, yes I know). It’s a lovely long necklace which just goes with so many things. The necklace below is more delicate and sparkly and is from Accessorize. The top left is a cushion I found in a lovely trinket shop near to where I live. The bottom left is a hand-made Christmas tree decoration my parents bought for us as they know we are weird like owls. The bottom right is cake. I want that cake.

Rant: Garmin watches. Yes I expressed my love for all things “pace” a week or so ago but nothing irks me more than a Garmin that doesn’t find satellites. And standing in the cold at 5.50am waiting to find satellites is not what I call fun. I call that verging on hypothermia and looking like a creepy person loitering on a street corner. However, I have since found a way to combat this…

IMG_8394 This was Sunday morning – when the sun had actually risen at this point

By balancing my watch on our front door handle before a run means I can do some dynamic warm-up moves in the comfort and privacy of my own home while my watch takes its sweet time to get itself together.

Rant: The iPhone keyboard for typing texts. Maybe I just have fat fingers because honestly I never seem to be able to get a coherent sentence out via text.

IMG_8365 Me asking Ben if he was coming to parkrun on Saturday

I know I’m not the only person who struggles. I know we’re a lot better off than previously when we had to press each button like five times before getting the letter we wanted, but COME ON. Other phones do it better I’m sure.

Rave: Sweet popcorn hot chocolate.Popcorn hot chocolateLet’s ignore the number of chemicals undoubtedly present within this one mug and focus on the deliciousness that is this hot chocolate. It rocked my world. Normally I’m a mint hot chocolate kinda girl but I went crazy and tried a new flavour. It definitely paid off. Options hot chocolate, thank you. (FYI the salted caramel flavour is also pretty good).

Rave: I’m going with a double rave here rather than another rant as I’m all out of ranting. As I run stupid o’clock in the morning it is obviously very dark. I’ve been sent some truly fantastic running products made by Nathan Sports which make being seen a piece of cake. I’ll do a proper review another date, but so far I’m impressed!

IMG_8418 No excuses: don’t run like a Ninja – male yourself visible!

This is a handy little gadget (called the Light Spur) that you attach to your trainer and it lights up. It’s very bright and very easy to wear. I love running, but I do not love risking my life by not being seen when I run. Sometimes you can’t just rely on a high vis top.

[Disclosure: I was sent the Nathan Sports products for free to review, all opinions are my own though]

What are your rants and raves this week?

What’s your favourite hot drink? I love tea and coffee but I adore a hot chocolate in the evening.

Do you run in the dark? How do you stay safe?

parkrun, Jamie’s and lots of sleep

I do love weekends. Extra sleep, nice food, bit of running and hanging out with good friends and family. What more could you want?

On Friday night Ben, Alfie and me headed to my parent’s for an Indian takeaway. I had had such a rubbish commute home and was feeling so stressed out and tired so this was a perfect evening. I ate lots of chicken and was a happy Anna.

Saturday I was up early to go set-up for parkrun. I tried to be quiet but did manage to wake up Ben accidentally who was feeling slightly hung over after having a few beers and wine with my dad. He managed to get cajoled into going by a few friendly Tweets from the parkrun guys as they needed some more volunteers. Ben’s just too nice to say no, bless him.

Parkrun Nov 14 (2) I took it fairly easy as I’m still just base building at the moment – no speed work or heavy-going sessions for now, which I’m quite happy about to be honest! So I chatted to one of my friends from the running club. Always nice to have an easy social parkrun :) I’m also highly conscious that I’m out of shape and nowhere near hitting PBs any time soon. But that’s actually OK because I need to look at the bigger picture of what I’m training for, i.e. London.

Parkrun Nov 14 (5) Ben marshalled like a rock star and saved the day when a lady fainted mid-run (she’s OK, she just had a moment of dizziness and Ben looked after her in the cafe with a hot mug of sugary coffee).

After parkrun we did the boring household chores, got ready and headed out with our friend Nathan to enjoy a bit of Jamie’s Italian and do some shopping.

Jamie's Italian selfie

As you’re probably already aware, when I like a restaurant we tend to do it to death (Nando’s & Zippers for example). And Jamie’s is no different. I’ve been sooo many times, whether for lunch or breakfast before going on holiday. When we go for lunch I always have the same meal. It’s probably my favourite meal at any restaurant. It’s consistently good.

Jamie's Italian meal For starters I had the vegetable plank which was really good. Loads of random bits and pieces, like roasted veg, mozzarella, bruschetta with salsa. Very nice. And then my standard Turkey Milanese (turkey and mozzarella with a breadcrumb coating) and a fried egg. Oh my life it was still just as good as always.

For pudding the boys went for lemon meringue whereas I went for a a chocolate brownie, caramelised popcorn and vanilla ice cream.

Jamie's Italian meal (1)Seriously one of the best brownies I’ve ever had. Crispy on the outside, soft and squidgy in the middle. I could have left the popcorn if I’m honest. It didn’t add much. But the sauce and ice cream complimented it perfectly. I’m already working out when we can next go back…

Suitably brimming with food, we did a bit of shopping.Silly hats

We had a little fun with some furry hats in Mountain Warehouse and I picked up a couple of items from O’Neil and Nike. but we were put off by the rubbish weather and how busy it was so we left. The boys went to the pub and I went home. I watched the brilliant film The Blind Side (so so good) and fell asleep at 9pm. I’m not even joking. I had every ambition to stay up late (like 10pm…) but it didn’t happen. I woke up just before 8am the next morning – 11 hours sleep! Bliss.

I was raring to go for my 10 mile run. It went really well. The weather was beautiful: cold, crispy and sunny. Perfect for running! Unfortunately it rained later on and I got soaked walking Alfie… Anyway I think I’ve pretty much decided to not run the half marathon next weekend. There’s really no point. I wouldn’t be aiming for a time, there’s no medal (yes I’m that materialistic) and it’s all a bit of a faff. My coach said it’s better I remain consistent and run 10 miles instead rather than trying to push things too soon. Sensible words – especially as no doubt though I’ll aim for an easy pace it’ll be faster than what I’d run on my own. Plus it means I get another lovely lie-in…maybe aim for a PB of 12 hours? ;)

Is there a meal at a particular restaurant that you will always order? I once ordered something different at Jamie’s and though it was nice I just missed the turkey the whole time!

What shops do you usually go to? I have such a range: New Look, Dorothy Perkins, Fat Face and more sporty ones.

How many hours sleep do you work best on? I think 7-8 hours are good for me, though I can do 6 without much issue. But I do like a good stretch at the weekend just because I can!