Running in sunshine and jumping in lakes

I only actually realised we had a Bank holiday weekend on Wednesday, so as you can imagine it was such a lovely surprise to know we had a three day weekend coming up! I definitely needed it. Despite only just getting back from my holiday the other week I was still so tired from the jetlag that it was nice to know I had an extra day to catch up with life.

Saturday was pretty full-on as it was my friend’s hen do (bachelorette party). Thankfully it was a day thing rather than a night thing so didn’t involve going clubbing and excessive drinking, which I’m not a huge fan of. The activities were due to start before midday in Bournemouth. I could have gone to parkrun in the morning but it would have been rushed so I decided to give it a miss, which handily works out well for timing my 100th parkrun with my friend’s 250th (I’m three away!).

Instead I planned to run three miles on my own. The weather was lovely and sunny and I slightly regretted wearing long-sleeves (though it was my new Lululemon top which I adore). I ran alongside the beach and in the distance I could see the Lee-On-Solent parkrun going on, the runners running in the horizon like dots. I got my route wrong and it came to 3.7 as I got home so then had to run up and down the road to get 4 miles, as you do Winking smile 

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The run felt really good. The day before I’d seen my physio and told him about my niggling hamstring. He did some very intense deep tissue massage on it and I woke up with it feeling a bit tender but so much better. He said I was OK to run the next day though he advised leaving it for a few days…but I just really wanted to run (famous last words? I hope not…). Anyway I finally felt like my running is back to normal post-marathon. All my runs previous seem to have felt quite tough and laboured, so I’ve kept the pace easier. I know this is to be expected post marathon! Saturday’s run felt a lot better though.

IMG_0671New Lululemon top

Then my friend, Lou, picked me up with some of the other girls and we headed to Bournemouth. We only vaguely knew that there would be some outdoor activities, quad biking and an obstacle course (which I was really excited about).

We got into some super sexy camouflage to begin with.

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Thanks to Ashley for the photos

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And then we got down to some quad biking. I’ve done quad biking before and loved it but this was a little different.

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The quad biking I’ve done was over a relatively smooth track so you can get some speed up but this was really bumpy and off-roady. You couldn’t exactly zoom round it. It was still really good fun though, just required a bit more technical skill and more of a risk getting stuck or rolling!

Lou sadly couldn’t take part in all the activities as she’s pregnant but she took lots of photos and was able to join in on some of the welly throwing (yes really) and other fun less-strenuous activities.

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The obstacle course was so much fun but also a little insane. We had the usual climb under, and jump over things, and monkey bars…

The Challenge obstacle course

I was chuffed at getting over the wall myself! And then the last section was literally stepping into a shoulder deep lake and getting to a boat to pull the team across to the finish.

Let me tell you, that lake was bloody freezing. In the end we all had to swim because the lakebed was just sinking beneath our feet. I thankfully kept my head out of the water but it was still horrendously cold. As we huddled waiting for the rest of the team to swim across my friend goes “I have deep empathy for Kate now. I wouldn’t have shared my door either” which was a perfect summation of how it felt.

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Though my friend had told me we needed a spare set of clothes because we might get wet I had no idea we’d get absolutely soaked. Some of the girls had sensibly brought towels but I had brought a tea towel at the last minute as I assumed I’d just need something to ‘dust off’ some dampness or mud. We all then huddled in an outdoor sheltered hut thing to get changed. It was horrifically cold but quite funny. My tea towel was somewhat useful!! Thankfully I did have a spare set of clothes with me.

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And then it was time for refuelling…in the best possible way.

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Afternoon tea! That first cup of tea was SO needed. Though I had nice warm and dry clothes on (not a warm and dry bra however…), I was still very cold. Lots of sandwiches, two scones with jam and cream, crisps and a cupcake helped though. Good grief. So much for eating a bit healthier post holiday! I had intended on eating my second scone instead of the cupcake but then there were cupcakes left-over and it looked to good to miss…

The hen do was such good fun and the hen had a great time Smile

I stayed at my parent’s house that evening as it was easier. The next morning I wanted to run 8-10 miles, depending how I felt. As soon as I started running I knew I wanted to run 10 miles. I just felt strong, happy and relaxed. The sun was shining and it was a little *too* warm but it was just nice to be outside in a tank top for once (another new Boston-themed Nike top). I got to the beach at about seven miles and wondered if I’d see my parents. They often take their dogs down the beach when the weather’s nice. And funnily enough I saw them and the four dogs in the distance (Alfie was with them of course).

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It was lovely to stop quickly and say hello to them and Alfie mid-run. Though they had to hold Alfie when I ran off as he wanted to join me, bless him!

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The run, despite being very warm, went really well. I felt good speeding up so I kept a tempo pace towards the end. Apart from needing to some long runs for the Cakeathon at the end of May, I have no goals or direction for my running at the moment so it’s nice to go with the flow.

And then my parents and me went to Gunwharf Quays for a bit of shopping (hello Adidas outlet shop) and Jamie’s Italian for lunch.IMG_0706

I had the vegetable plank to start (so tasty, lots of roasted vegetables, cheese and hummus), followed by my usual turkey Milanese and then a white chocolate cheesecake. I’ve never had a bad meal at Jamie’s (though I do tend to order the same thing…).

IMG_0702I’ve had this meal so many times now

Monday was a rather chilled day of doing some chores, catching up with life (and Game of Thrones – the latest episode, OMG. SO much happened) and just generally chilling. Perfect bank holiday weekend!

What did you get up to?

Is there a meal you keep going back to?

What kind of hen dos/bachelorette parties do you enjoy?

Boston Marathon 2016

The expectation for this race was insane. The entire city was buzzing with anticipation. Every person I saw seemed to be involved somehow. Everyone knew it was happening and was excited. [Warning: another long post]

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Like I said before, I was really nervous. Yes I had no time goals per se but I was genuinely worried about my hamstring (in true Anna fashion, there’s always something, right?). The tightness had popped up the week before and I could feel it when I stretched it. In any normal circumstance I’d have probably given myself a few days off…but I had an expensive race I needed to do. I was worried how it would fair over 26.2 miles. It was just a hint of a niggle, but what if all those miles turned it into a full blown injury?

Anyway, I was going to run it and see what happened. I decided to go for 3:40 and perhaps better if I felt good later on. I was confident with those paces – it wasn’t going too fast and should feel comfortable. I had my mile paces printed out and laminated (with Cellotape) that would be tucked into my sports bra (I’ve done this for previous marathons).Before Boston marathon

My alarm was set for just before 5am. I had a black coffee and got myself ready. I put on some throwaway clothes to keep warm (one of my dad’s hoodies and a pair of tracksuit bottoms I’d had since senior school!). My mum waved me off (she would be coming down later to stand somewhere on the course). I took my oats downstairs in a container. Handily the hotel had put on a tuck shop of breakfast items and coffee so I used some of that milk to create some cold porridge/gruel which I’d eat later in the race village (mmm…).

IMG_0460I bought a handy container from Tesco the week before

I caught the water taxi with a few other marathoners. I was probably too early as my (white) wave didn’t need to catch the shuttle buses until 6.45-7.20am but I wanted to get out there.

IMG_0214Early morning selfie before the taxi

We walked the mile to the common where the shuttle buses were waiting. It was all fairly easy. We had to make sure we were using clear bags and that our stuff fit into another plastic bag to make sure we weren’t taking too much to the race village (as there was a proper bag drop near the Common) and that security could see what we were taking. I had my phone, some nuun water, a banana, my gels and my porridge. There were security everywhere. You had to get your bag searched before going on the shuttle bus. But it was very well organised, like clockwork.Boston common marathonSo many yellow school buses lined up

I got on a bus and was off in no time, about 7am. I sat next to a girl from Chicago who I briefly chatted to. I was so nervous that I honestly didn’t fancy chatting too much and I think she felt the same. Instead I ended up listening to some girls behind me talk about all the track workouts they’d done. Joy. I wondered how I could sustain these nerves for another 3.5 hours…surely this can’t be healthy!

That bus ride was so boring. The roads were dull, there was nothing to look at and all I could think about was how bloody long it was taking us to drive away from the place we were going to run to. It was funny though to see so many school buses going in convoy along the motorway. It was also a novel experience to travel on an American school bus!

Finally we arrived about an hour later at the race village. I was in need of a wee and just wanted to get into the race village.Boston race village

It was nice and sunny but still quite cool. I did my business and then found a piece of cardboard going spare to sit on and ate my porridge. The cardboard idea was a popular one and was easy to get as there were so many boxes of free bagels, bananas, Clif products and Gatorade that new boxes were being opened all the time. The grass was damp from the dew so this was a good plan. There was also free coffee. It was quite the buffet.

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I found the one area where my phone picked up free WIFI and stood there for a bit checking up on social media, posting some pics and updates. It was so lovely to get so many well wishers and kind messages. I felt truly loved and buoyed. But it suddenly occurred to me how many people knew I was running and the pressure suddenly heightened. I also realised that as it was Monday lots of people might be bored at work and there was the tracker…

I decided to conserve my battery on my phone and laid down for a bit on my cardboard. It was now very sunny. People all around me were sitting or walking around or snoozing. This was like no other race I’ve been to in that everyone looked fast. Everyone was lean, prepared and focused. The vibe of the place was very different to other races. There were no fun runners here. Everyone had run a marathon before in order to qualify. And, to me, it seemed everyone was well-trained and ready to go-go-go. I felt so out of place. I know this sounds ridiculous as I earnt my place there like everyone else, but I honestly felt like I didn’t belong. I know not everyone was actually running for a fast time, but it definitely felt that way.

Eventually I thought I better go to the loo again. Good job as it took 40 minutes in the queue despite the obscene number of portaloos! And I was just in time for when they called my wave to go to the start. Again, everything was super organised. And the place was full of police, military and sniffer dogs (and snipers on the roof!).

At this point I was really concerned with the weather. I kept my hoodie on as long as possible, not from the cold, but from the sun. It was beating down and I knew I needed to find some suntan lotion or I’d be in trouble. Luckily as my wave made our way to our corral at the start there was a collection of Vaselines, waters and suntan lotion bottles that people had kindly left behind before going to the start.

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Lots of runners were stopping to use this pop-up facility and I joined in slathering myself with lotion.

Boston marathon start

Just before we headed down to our corrals there was another area of portaloos. Honest to god with the many, many portaloos in the race village I’ve never seen so many for one race. I knew I didn’t have the time (or patience) to queue up again but mentally I needed to be certain. I saw lots of people going over the material fence to some bushes to have a quick wee so I followed. There was nowhere to hide though. I say bushes but really I mean leafless branches. Girls just squatted down as best as they could and I will unashamedly say I joined them. Needs must! The funniest thing was that if I turned to look one way all I’d see were the men lined up to pee right in front of us. So many willies on display!

Anyway after that lapse in human dignity, I headed to the start feeling ready.

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I hung about in my corral, doing my leg swings and dynamic stretches – more to calm my nerves than anything. It was hot. I was sweating already. Then we were off. I was actually that distracted by everything around me that I almost forgot to start my Garmin as I crossed the start line!

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Miles 1-3: It was very crowded at the start but I didn’t really mind this as it kept my pace in order. I was surprised that people weren’t zooming off but I did get overtaken a fair bit. I kept in the middle of the road and felt happy. There weren’t a huge number of supporters but there were sprinklings of people cheering and people on their front lawns, set up for the day with chairs and drinks. It was full on downhill right from the start and I felt comfortable at my pace. But there were a few rolling hills as the initial miles tick by. I glanced at my pacing paper each mile to check where I should be for the next mile and it gave me a good indication of where the hills would be.

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Miles 4-7: So far I’d been keeping nicely to my plan, though perhaps slightly quicker but I expected this. I heard one man suddenly gasp when he realised he accidentally turned off his Garmin by mistake instead of switching the screens and he hadn’t realised. I felt his pain – what a bummer! He was then in a dilemma as to what to do. I never found out…

I kept looking at my pace paper and felt on track but it was starting to feel really tough. It wasn’t supposed to feel as tough as this. I grabbed water from the aid stations (thankfully they were so regular) and began pouring one over my head and sipping the other. Annoyingly they were cups which meant drinking was tricky but I squeezed the top together so I could create a spout. I also had to dodge the Gatorades as they were always first (could you imagine if I accidentally dumped one of those on my head?? #sticky).

The course was fairly dull. As a non-American I wasn’t sure what was significant and what wasn’t. There were spectators along the way but not as many as I thought they’d be. As the course is pretty much a straight line to Boston you could occasionally seen straight out in front of you and the 1,000s of runners ahead. It was mentally tough to see that. I crossed over the 10k chip mat and thought how my time would ping back to my dad (I thought it was only significant markers. I’m thankful I didn’t know it was every mile as that might have freaked me out).

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Miles 8-12: At this point I knew things weren’t going well. I was struggling. My hamstring was fine (just a tiny niggle barely noticeable) but my brain wasn’t happy. I was losing motivation fast. The heat was really getting to me and I was struggling with the paces. I heard a girl next to me say to someone else, “It shouldn’t feel this hard this early”. I was so thankful that someone else was feeling the strain like me. I realised the heat was affecting everyone (of course).

My piece of paper was difficult to read now as I’d sweated through to the ink. Then a gust of wind blew it away – I kid you not. I watched it fly over my shoulder and gave a little scream which scared a nearby runner. I briefly contemplated going back for it but realised it was for the best. My 3:40 (and definitely 3:35) goal weren’t going to happen. Now I just wanted to finish. I switched my watch to miles rather than the pace I was doing.

Water wasn’t helping and I wondered about Gatorade but knew that would be dangerous having never tried it and the thought of a sickly drink made my stomach heave.

I was in marathon hell. Nothing about the course was helping, there was no shade and I was quickly spiralling into a dark, dark place. I took my gel early in the hopes that it would perk me up and then decided “sod it” and put a podcast on. I needed something to take my mind off the race. I wasn’t enjoying the race and was having a mental battle with myself about stopping. But stopping would be a) embarrassing and b) I’d have no idea where the hell to go or what to do.

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We then came into the Wesley area. I didn’t think it was this soon but suddenly there was a long (and I mean LONG) line of girls hanging over the barriers with bright red lipstick on screaming to be kissed. They had signs with funny messages and it took my mind off the race completely reading them. I’d heard about this before the race so it was fun seeing it live.

Wesley College Boston 2016Just a small section (Source)

Their screaming was deafening. I found myself laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. Some runners went over to have a quick peck and I even saw one guy get a selfie. It hugely lifted my mood.

Miles 13-16: Suddenly I was back in the groove. I was back in race mode and pulled myself together. This is BOSTON, I told myself. Don’t waste it. I saw a girl in the crowd handing out bottles of Vita Coco coconut water and I decided to grab one. Hands down this probably saved the race for me. The water was deliciously cold and tasty, and it perked me right up. I kept pouring water on my head at each water station but I kept that coconut water with me to sip on as I went on. Now I was just ticking the miles down until the hills would begin at Newton (mile 16). I saw a guy with a parkrun 50 shirt on and this made me smile too. I had my second gel.

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Miles 17-21: I hit the first hill after a sharp decline and it was a long slog. It was tough but there was lots of support and I just remembered that after every hill there was a decline. I also envisaged myself running up my local hill. I could do this. I remember reading a sign saying “May the course be with you” with a picture of Yoda and this made me smile. Another said “Motivational message for people I don’t know”. Random but funny. And my personal favourite “If Trump can run, so can you”.

When I was at the race village my mum had text me saying she was on the left next to a fire station (I do love my mum’s vagueness). I had no idea where that was. I assumed it wouldn’t be early in the race but at best 17 miles onward. So I now spent lots of time searching the supporters for my mum and any fire stations (thankfully I wasn’t aware that she was actually about 800m from the finish…).

The hills kept coming but I didn’t really notice them. It broke the race up nicely and I found myself overtaking people who were walking or struggling. Amusingly I was only aware of Heartbreak Hill after I’d climbed it and saw a huge sign saying I’d conquered it. Personally I’d say the first hill was the hardest as it dragged on, Heartbreak was more of a sharp but shorter hill. I enjoyed the downhill and found my quads were fine (I’d be warned that your quads could seriously hurt on these later downhills) and felt giddy that I’d gotten past the worst of the race.

I grabbed a Clif gel from a volunteer at the energy station (this was always my plan as I only wanted to carry two gels). I realised it was Vanilla flavoured and that there were other flavours going so I picked up a few more and then made my selection (oh the luxury!). I went for Citrus in the end, and threw the other gels back to the energy people’s feet. I took it at mile 18 and it was gloriously tasty. Like lemon curd.

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22-26 miles: Aside from Bournemouth, these miles have always been good for me. I felt I was almost home, I was running strong and was happy. There was a gentle breeze which had a lovely cooling effect. The crowds were thick. I finished the coconut water and ditched it. I raised my hands and smiled and this made the crowds louder (other people were doing this too, I wasn’t the only loon).

My only annoyance was a painful stitch in my side. I tried stabbing my side, breathing differently, putting hands on hips, stretching upwards…nothing shifted it. My only relief was bending over as I ran – this, I know, looked weird but it provided me with minutes relief after I did it. At this point in the race you do whatever you can to stay comfortable. I saw that famous Citgo sign in the horizon and smiled – finally another landmark I recognised.

We went under a bridge where the words “Boston Strong” were painted.

IMG_0475I took this photo on our last day when we drove back to the airport

And then it was time for the only two turns in the entire race, the famous: “Left on Hereford, right on Boylston” (I’d only heard about that the day before). And then the crowds were crazy. I pumped my arms and smiled and smiled. I could see the finish in the distance. Still so bloody far away but within my grasp. I felt strong and overtook people as I headed to the finish. And then it was done.

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Finish: My time was 3:38:46. I am fully shocked by this – somehow I managed to get my goal despite giving up earlier and ignoring my watch.

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I stumbled along, my hamstring now saying hello to me, it was very tight. And within minutes I had text messages off people saying congratulations and then my dad rung me. Blimey! I answered saying “I’ve finished! I did it!” and he goes “I know, it’s just said on the tracker. I’ve been tracking your every mile.” I blinked, my every mile!? Thank god I didn’t know that.

IMG_0272Looking behind at the finish line

I plodded along talking to my dad, telling him it was the hardest road marathon I’ve ever done. He replied that he could tell by my splits (thanks, Dad). He also said he could see from the TV coverage that it was a hot day and the elites struggled too. Hilariously my dad had said he’d already text my mum to tell her I was finished as she didn’t know. I got my medal and thanked every volunteer I came near. I was euphoric. I’d have probably given away half my savings to a charity at that point I was so glad to be finished.

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After getting my medal I walked along to collect the various food items, a goody bag and water. I asked a kind volunteer to take my photo…

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And then stumbled along to get a foil wrap. I wasn’t cold but I knew I would be soon.

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I’d pre-agreed to meet my mum at the Prudential Centre which was such a good idea. I could see it because it was so big so I couldn’t get lost and it wasn’t too far away.

It seemed every single person I passed congratulated me. I got to the Prudential Centre, saw my mum and she ran towards me and grabbed me in a hug. She said, “I’m so proud of you! I saw you! You were smiling!” I hadn’t seen her, which is such a shame but I’m so glad she saw me. Apparently the lady next to her said, “How can she be smiling at this stage!?”

I almost cried hugging my mum but managed to hold it together. My dad is such a supporter of all my races and has seen so many and of course I know my mum supports me too but to have her there at a marathon and to be so happy for me, it was really very special. She always tries her best to come and support me but she worries about leaving their dogs for too long so she’s never seen me at a marathon. It was a lovely, lovely moment. She was so excited for me and buzzed by everything. It made my day as I was worried it would be a long, hard day for her that she would grin and bear it (as mothers do). But she was smiling from ear to ear.

We headed straight to the Barnes and Noble Starbucks where I could finally sit down, have a giant iced coffee and just absorb what had happened.

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It was strangely quiet and peaceful in the shop, whereas outside was mental with runners and people. It was the perfect location to decompress. And the goody bag had an APPLE. A GLORIOUSLY CRUNCHY TASTY APPLE. It was absolute bliss. No apple has ever tasted that good. Big words.

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It was definitely the hardest road marathon I’ve done, despite going into it without a time goal. My easy pace I’d planned didn’t feel easy – I’m assuming because of training through winter and than having a very sunny and warm race. It was definitely a fantastic experience. But not one I’d do again. I’ll save my reflections for another day!

How do you motivate yourself when you find yourself in a dark patch during a race/workout?

Would you prefer to train cold and race warm, or train warm and race cold?

The best thing to find in a goody bag is…?

Boston Marathon Expo and the days before

Where do I even start?? [Warning: long post alert] So I’m back from Boston. I got back Saturday morning (about 2am Boston time, 7am UK time). Saturday was a tough day staying awake! The flight time was only around 6.5 hours so it’s not fully overnight. But anyway, I’m back and feeling more human (just). I haven’t finished my race recap of Boston yet so that’ll come (hopefully) towards the end of this week. So for now I’ll recap the days leading up to it.

My mum and me flew to Boston Friday early afternoon. I watched two films (Spotlight and The Big Short – both really good. Spotlight was especially interesting as it’s set in Boston). I do love long-haul flights for their movies!

IMG_9972Flight selfie

We arrived in the afternoon Boston time (Boston is 5 hours behind the UK). We were staying in the Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor. I’d booked through the Boston Marathon so got a discounted price and as it was connected to the marathon the hotel knew lots of information and themed the weekend for the runners (free yoga Saturday morning, free water taxi to Boston mainland on Monday, carb-based meals in the restaurant, etc.). They even put a finish line on the floor.

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The hotel was located very close to the airport which was very handy (and had a free shuttle) though we were, as I mentioned, a water taxi ride from Boston proper. At first I thought this was annoying but actually it was lovely. The views from the restaurant were phenomenal.

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We had such good views of the Boston skyline and a lovely path to walk along the water.

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As we were tired we didn’t fancy getting the water taxi over and hunting for somewhere to eat. We caught an Uber (honestly, this app blew my mind – it’s like magic!) and went to Angela’s Cafe, in East Boston, which I’d seen on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and I’d also been heartily recommended by Anthony Rodriguez, a member of the DDD team.Angelas Cafe

As we weren’t hugely hungry we kept it simple with a soup for my mum and a chicken salad for me. We also had a HUGE stone bowl of guacamole and tortilla chips. Heavenly! I was worried that the place would be a bit ‘off-beat- for my mum but she loved it. Honestly the food was awesome and so fresh! The restaurant was very small but clearly a local favourite. I wish we could have gone back there to fully try out some of the other food but sadly we didn’t have time.

The next morning we got up early as we were jetlagged and had an early breakfast in the hotel before catching the water taxi over. The water taxi took less than eight minutes and was a lovely way to travel as the views were great.

IMG_0147Another cheeky selfie

It was a bit chilly and windy but otherwise lovely and sunny. Our mission was to head straight to the marathon expo first to get that done. We used the metro system, the “T”, and then followed all the other marathoners to the convention centre. It was easy to spot runners – they were everywhere and most of them either carrying a map that came with the marathon info or wearing Boston marathon clothing. It was very exciting.

IMG_0007Some firemen were stood watching the 5k ear their fire station and I couldn’t not say hello to their adorable Dalmatian

We stopped a few times to take photos of course. The Boston 5k was going on at that time so there was lots going on.

We found the expo and headed straight to the bib pick-up area. We were actually slightly early as they hadn’t even started giving out the bibs yet. But we only had a few minutes to wait – our timing was awesome.Boston ExpoThe expo was great. Similar to Berlin where there were large areas of different companies selling running-related stuff. As Adidas were the clothing sponsor for the marathon they got the largest area and I was literally in heaven.Boston expo 1

I decided to treat myself to some Boston merchandise because it was all so lovely and I wanted a few items with Boston Marathon 2016 on. It was expensive though as you can imagine! I decided to go for a black Adidas jacket and a blue tank top. There were the traditional blue jackets but I found the colours quite garish, though so many people were going for them and we’d see them everywhere the days after.

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We carried on moseying about but I didn’t buy anything else. It was starting to get busy so we headed out to start a day of shopping, something we were both excited about. My mum, bless her, was wonderful joining me in the expo and I could see her getting into the excitement of it all as she was beginning to realise just how big a deal running Boston was to the US.

We got to the shops just as they were opening. We mainly stuck to the Prudential Centre, which is basically a mall with an observatory on the top floor (it’s a huge skyscraper).

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Though we were tempted by the observatory and seeing the city from so high we were too distracted by shops Winking smile

I found a Lululemon and almost bought one of their swiftly tops which I’d be hankering over for ages on the Internet. It’s so expensive for basically a long-sleeved running top but it’s such a lovely fit and lovely material. It also had “Boston 2016” on the back. In the end I decided not to buy it (MISTAKE).

After lots of of shopping we started to feel hungry so decided to try out the Cheesecake Factory as it was close by, relatively inexpensive and easy. It was ridiculously busy everywhere now (runners everywhere). We had a 20 minute wait but we decided it was worth it as everywhere else was rammed. We’d never been to a Cheesecake factory before so it was a new experience.

Cheesecake Factory

I couldn’t believe all the cheesecakes and cake that were in the display cabinet. It was amazing! As we instantly knew we were going to have cheesecake for pudding, we decided to be a bit sensible and have a light salad for lunch.

Cheesecake Factory lunch

The salad was delicious, with goat’s cheese and chicken. But obviously the cheesecake was the winner here. It was ginormous.

Red velvet cheesecake

I went for the Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake while my mum went for the Salted Caramel Cheesecake. I’d love to say that I couldn’t eat all of it but that would be a lie. I’m such a greedy cake monster that I polished the entire thing off. I felt ridiculously full afterwards of course but I fully enjoyed it! That cheesecake will forever haunt my dreams now…it was so good. My mum, being a far more reasonable human being, couldn’t finish hers. Luckily the waitress took it away quickly as I was eyeing it up. God.

I rationalised that as the marathon was on Monday I could enjoy my eating on the Saturday but on the Sunday I’d be more sensible. In theory. During the meal we chatted away to two ladies who were running the marathon the next day in the table near us. It was incredible, everywhere there were marathoners.

We did a bit more shopping and sightseeing then headed back, by walking this time, to the harbour area. We decided to go back to the hotel to chill for a bit and then head out again for dinner that evening. We made sure to book somewhere before we got the water taxi back as it was so busy. We booked dinner for a lot later as obviously we were stuffed!

The next day I got up with the intentions of doing a shakeout run. I asked at reception where I could do this and they provided me with a handy hand-size map that showed different options – a longer 6+ mile run or a shorter three mile run. This was fantastic! I eyeballed it for a while then decided I knew where to go for my three miler. It basically ran alongside the water so it was lovely and scenic.

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In true Anna standard, I did get lost. But amazingly I managed to find my way back and run exactly three miles! I saw lots of runners about and we all smiled and waved at each other.

Then my mum and me had breakfast again in the hotel. The breakfast at the hotel was lovely; it was a buffet-style affair but you could order off the menu as well. I ordered a bacon, cheese and lobster omelette to have alongside my oatmeal and black coffee.

Hyatt Harbor Hotel Breakfast

This set me up nicely for another day of walking around Boston. We decided to follow the Freedom Trail, which would take in the main historic sights of Boston on foot. It was quite fun as we used an app on our phone which would tell us information about each thing we saw and it was a bit like an Easter egg hunt trying to find the different things.

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Basically red bricks would guide you to each different place and there would be a plaque giving information about different buildings and places. The app helped though giving a map and some context (you could use it offline).Freedom Trail BostonNot knowing a huge amount of American history (or barely any…) it was quite interesting. It also helped us get a good bearing on the city. This was really helpful for me as the next day, marathon Monday, I’d need to get myself to the Boston Common ridiculously early on my own from the hotel (catching the water taxi, then walking about a mile) to catch the shuttle buses to the start of the marathon, 26-something miles away from Boston.

BostonWhoops, my mum cut off George Washington’s head!

We walked down Newbury Street which was teeming with people. The sun was shining and it was a lovely day. We found a lovely little Italian restaurant, called Trattoria, for a light lunch.

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Again I had a salad with chicken and goat’s cheese (I know what I like!). It was delicious and the atmosphere was lovely. We chatted to a table next to us who’s dad was running the marathon for the seventh time. It was great to chat to someone who had done it.

We did a bit more shopping in the Prudential Centre and I decided to go back to Lululemon to buy that top I’d seen the day before. Alas though they’d sold out of the Boston 2016 one… I was fairly grumpy but tried on a load of stuff and decided to treat myself (I had gone with a shopping budget) to a few things. Lululemon is expensive but the quality is good. I treated myself to two jackets and the swiftly top sans the “Boston 2016” on the back. (It wasn’t until later on when I checked the receipt I realised they hadn’t charge me for one of the jackets. Though I had watched the sales person ring them up and fold them! Unknowingly I’d walked out of the shop without them charging me for a £90 jacket!! My lucky day it seems! My mum joked that we could now never go back to that shop).

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I also treated myself to a few Nike items (one long sleeved top and a tank top with Boston on it and personalised with my name – for free!).

We checked out the finish line as well – which was ridiculously busy.

Boston marathon 2016 finish lineThe Marathon Daffodils were lined up all along the streets and outside shops

We then spent some time around Quincy Market as well, which again was just heaving with activity. So many people! It was mental. In fact the entire day we couldn’t move for runners running everywhere or just people wearing Boston marathon jackets or just lycra-clad people. Everyone looked super fit and healthy. It seemed the whole city knew about the marathon. In shops the staff would be talking about it, wondering whether to go down and watch it (it’s a holiday for them on the Monday) and people would ask if you were running it. Though it was nice, it was making me exceptionally nervous. My hamstring had been really tight for a few days and I was so worried it would cause me issues. I could feel it when I ran that morning – not pain, just a tightness. I was worried about all those hills. My mum, bless her, did her best to calm me down.

Quincy Market is full of restaurants, food stalls and shops. We wandered around for a bit and then I spotted someone with a chocolate covered apple. Where was this!? I soon found a stall inside the market hall and bought one immediately.

IMG_0182 Nothing calms me more than apples Winking smile

We had already decided to eat a meal in the restaurant that evening as it was easy and I didn’t want to have too late a night. The hotel’s restaurant was very posh and looked out onto the harbour. We’d booked in the morning (or so we thought) and at 7.30pm arrived for our table. They looked confused and said there was no reservation. We clearly saw a woman write down our names, our room number and our time that morning so we were a bit annoyed. Especially as we had nowhere else to go really for dinner (without stress) and it was fairly important I ate a good meal. It was busy though and I started to get nervous.

Thankfully the hostess was very apologetic and got us a table and told us our appetisers would be covered, which was a lovely touch (and quite appreciated as the menu was quite expensive!). So it actually worked in our favour. Boringly I went for a salad for my main as I wanted to keep things simple but I just could not resist the chicken wings for my starter.

Hyatt Boston Harbor

The chicken wings fully rocked my world. As a starter there were LOADS. It was pretty much a main meal (for a normal person). Perhaps not my wisest choice before a marathon but they were bloody awesome. And you know I love my salads Winking smile

And then we headed to bed. Saturday and Sunday we’d walked over 30,000 steps each day. I was shattered. I knew this was a bad move before the marathon but at the same time, we had a great time and I would rather be busy and walking than sat contemplating the next day. It also helped me fall asleep quickly and deeply both nights.

And then the marathon…

What expos have you been to before?

Have you ever been to Boston?

Do you do a lot of walking the days before a big race?

How I trained for the Boston Marathon

One more day before I’m off to Boston with my mum! We get a taxi tomorrow morning and off we go. We’re both very excited. Before that though, I thought I’d do a post on how I trained for the Boston Marathon.

Like the Liverpool Marathon, I didn’t really follow a generic plan though I did use a few in combination to get a good idea of level of mileage and the long runs (how many, when, the build-up to them, etc.). In terms of running I decided to keep with running four times a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday usually). My mid-week runs would be 4-6 miles, then parkrun on a Saturday and the long run on the Sunday.

When I initially started training I was keen to include regular hills and possibly some interval training in my schedule. Ha. That didn’t really happen long-term. I kept it up to begin with but then lost motivation.

imageThe red highlight is where I had my niggle

This is probably because I was also juggling a lot of stuff at the gym. I was finding myself really enjoying my time strength training and lifting heavier weights (a lot heavier than I was during my Liverpool marathon training). This meant that my recovery was a lot tougher and if I went to the gym on Tuesday morning and worked on my glutes then that evening’s run would be really hard-work with heavy legs.IMG_8832

The gym

Of course I could have cut back my gym sessions or lifted less heavy weights, but the truth is I didn’t want to. The goal for Boston has never been to get a PB. Not every marathon for me has to have that aim. I enjoy them so much (when they don’t involve me getting injured…) that I don’t mind not getting a ‘fast’ time because the whole thing feels epic and an accomplishment anyway. (I don’t feel the same way about 10ks!). Plus it sort of takes the fun out of the entire process if I’m constantly worrying about speed sessions, hitting certain paces and goals. I much prefer to trundle through the training consistently, hitting the long runs feeling strong. And that’s what I’ve done.

So I usually went to the gym four times a week and generally split it shoulders/arms, glutes, legs and back with added running-specific exercises to keep injuries at bay for running (e.g. single leg work, balance and coordination focuses, plyometrics, core, etc.).

The running

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Fortunately I only had one niggle-woe which disappeared after a week of rest. My foot randomly started causing me sharp pains during a planned 18 miler and so I cut it short to 12 miles. I then cut back my next long run to 13 miles. I was surprisingly sensible and didn’t panic. I’m almost certain the root cause was choosing an old pair of trainers to run in which disagreed with me. Other than that I haven’t had any issues (fingers crossed, *touches wood*, *does a rain dance*).

My build-up has been nice and gradual and my mileage around the level I like it (30 miles/week). My only slight concern is that I’ve only done one full 18 mile run that wasn’t broken up. Two of them I used half marathons and added on extra miles beforehand to get the mileage up. But it is what it is! I have two 17 milers which I’m really pleased with.

Food

This time around I was far more conscious of what I was eating. For Liverpool I’d refuel after long runs with afternoon teas, cakes and just general crap “because I’m training for a marathon”. This time around I focused on more balanced meals, especially post long-runs, and ate a lot more protein and fat. Especially with lifting weights I knew I needed to increase my protein. I didn’t want to lose muscle through running and I didn’t want to lose weight.

IMG_8642Steak with stir-fried veg and Brie

I haven’t had those nagging headaches I used to get after my long runs and I feel like my body recovered quicker. I didn’t stop treats or meals out though. As you’ve probably noticed I ate out a lot and ate a lot of ribs and more red meat. Life isn’t fun without the good stuff you love after all Winking smile

So I’ve just got to survive Monday. The hills and predicted high temperatures are slightly concerning me but I have to keep reminding myself of my main goals: don’t get injured and enjoy it. I just have a few nightmares that this was my goal for Bournemouth and I was injured for six weeks afterwards… But I actually have proper paces planned that I’ll stick to (whichever goal I go for – likely to be 3:35 or 3:40) whereas for Bournemouth I just ran off like an idiot without any plans. I’ve also got 15 solid weeks of structured training behind me. Have faith, Anna.

Afterwards…

After the marathon it’ll all be about the crucial refuelling process. I’m thinking this is going to be a feat in itself. I’m almost certain I’ll have burned about 10,000000 calories during the race and so to that effect I’ll need to hunt out adequate spots of good food. This is likely to include some cake, probably some ribs, more than likely fro-yo and, purely for medicinal purposes, donuts. It’s going to be hard work but I’m hoping the US will help me out with this. After the marathon I only have four days so it’s going to be tough, but I’ll try my best Winking smile

Do you strength train during marathon training?

How do you refuel after a big race?

How often do you like to run/train when training for a big race/event?

Keeping Fit on a Weekend Away

Hi guys, I have another guest post for you today – perfect timing as the nice weather seems to have arrived!

If you’re a naturally active person, who doesn’t often go more than a couple of days without doing some form of exercise, whether it be a leisurely walk or an intense workout, then you might find it difficult to sit still when on holiday or on a weekend away. It’s also more than likely we’ll spend a short break indulging in things that may not be all that good for our bodies! It is possible to maintain some shred of a healthy lifestyle whilst on holiday, though!
Here’s how:

1. Explore the local area on your bike! It’s a great way to discover the place you’re staying in: it’s a fun, quick way to get around and see more, it’s super healthy, and best of all, it’s free.

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2. Choose a nature break – instead of a city stay or a suburban break, choose to visit somewhere that’s plentiful with countryside or nature so you can get out and about in the wild. The Treehouse Hotel at Port Lympne Reserve, Kent, is the perfect retreat for an active, fit weekend away.

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3. Download workout apps – this can help you to keep up with your workout routine by following workout videos or doing stretches whilst on the move. Some of our favourites are MyFitnessPal, Johnson & Johnson 7 Minute Workout, and Pocket Yoga.

4. Plan a fitness activity as part of your weekend away – book active excursions or activities so that moving around and being active is part of the enjoyment of your holiday.

5. Cook at home – cooking your own meals is often much less calorific than eating at a restaurant (you’ll also avoid the temptation of a tantalising dessert!) Book a holiday rental that offers its own kitchen or self-catering facilities and you can stick to your healthy eating regime at least for one or two meals a day.

6. Sip wisely – you’ll no doubt enjoy some bevvies on your break, but be sure to choose low-calorie alcoholic drinks and avoid sugary cocktails, opting for slim line tonic or soda water as a mixer instead.

7. Take the stairs – leave the lift behind and opt for the stairs at every opportunity – it’s a great way to help burn fat and tone up! Climbing or running up a set of stairs really works your glutes, helping to burn up to 953 calories per hour.

Incorporating these top 7 fitness tips during your next weekend break should be an easy way to stay on top of your health goals! What’s your favourite exercise to do during the holiday period? Let us know in the comments below!