Long run company and an epic refuel

Living on the South coast of England at the moment is quite interesting with storm Imogen howling about the place. Last night it was crazy; ridiculously strong winds, lashings of rain, thunder and lightning. All very exciting, but not much fun for Alfie, my dog, who freaked out. Then he decided (by the way this was 1am) that the safest place for him to sleep would be on my chest. This slightly restricted my breathing I must say…

Luckily the weather seemed only to be terrible in the evenings over the weekend. Saturday morning was actually OK at parkrun, albeit very windy. Our new signs had arrived! So much lighter than the previous ones. IMG_8174This was great in theory (less effort carrying them along the course to the right spots) but it meant in the wind they were in danger of blowing away. They had to be stuck very firmly into the ground.IMG_8176

The ‘Keep Right’ signs are huge! And we have so many now. Because our course is three laps there are quite a few spots where people are overtaking or coming back in a different direction and some of the course is fairly narrow so it really requires people to be sensible and, well, keep right. We don’t have a huge number of people at our parkrun (150-250) but if it’s busy then it will become quite dangerous and collisions could happen. Happily though the signs seemed to work (previously we had two very small ‘Keep Right’s).

It was clear fast times weren’t going to be easy due to the wind. Part of the course runs alongside the seafront and the wind just blows straight across you making it very tough running in a straight line. Though it did push us up one of the hills which is always much appreciated! I took it steady (I think that’s always what I do now, I want it to be a good effort but not full-blown sprint). On the third lap I caught up with the usually very speedy Chris, who I used to be faster than but since my injury and him getting better and better he’s probably a 30-50 seconds faster than me overall, and Mark (very speedy). They’d decided to take it easy, rather than me suddenly become super speedy Winking smile Mark helped pace me to a fast finish which was tough but helpful.

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My time was 23:04 which I’m pleased with considering the wind and the effort I put in.IMG_8213

After clearing down I had to dash off to get ready for a lunch out with my mum and Di (Ben’s mum who I still keep in touch with).

We headed to Hayling Island where we had a nice walk along a coastal path (incidentally along part of the Portsmouth Coastal marathon route) and then headed inside, out of the wind, to have some lunch at The Ship Inn.IMG_8218

Between the three of us we shared a mezze board, which had a lovely selection of dips (hummus, tzatziki, taramasalata and an olive dip), feta, roasted tomatoes and pita bread. Very tasty. For mains we all had the fish stew, which was lovely big chunks of salmon, haddock and prawns in a tomato broth with sourdough bread on the side. We were all rather saintly and forwent pudding. It was a nice light lunch I must say, which is a change from my usual as of late!

During the week I’d received a message from a woman I used to know a few years ago, Shantha. She’s an awesome runner and had been chosen for the 26.2 Project for Women’s Running magazine in 2014. Through their very cool sounding scheme she trained and ran the London marathon in an incredible time of 3:19:20 (though her PB is around 3:14!). Anyway, she messaged me and asked if I fancied doing a long run with her as our paces seemed to be similar (she reads my blog: hi Shantha!). Normally I do most of my long runs on my own unless I’m combining it with a race so I was a bit nervous at first. What if I’m really slow? What if we have nothing to talk about?

I really needn’t have worried though. We met at Royal Victoria Country Park Sunday morning and straight away were nonstop talking. She’s training for the Race to the King ultra marathon in June (52 miles!!) and had previously run a longish run the day before and needed to run about 14 miles. I needed to run 17 miles so we agreed I’d add on the miles at the end. She’d planned a lovely route around Netley, Hamble and Burseldon. We were off-road at times in the mud and splashing through puddles and there was a tough stretch at the beginning on shingle and some testing hills throughout but otherwise it was a lovely relaxed run. The pace felt good though I did worry I was going too slow for her. I wasn’t sure I could have gone faster – not when the terrain was more varied than I’m used to on a long run. We even caught a little chugboat ferry to cross a small stretch of water (£1.50 and took less than 5 minutes – brilliant!).IMG_8219

Ferry boat selfie

It was such a nice change to chat away on a run instead of just zoning out. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a solo long run – mentally it’s just so refreshing. But it was nice to chat to someone so likeminded and at a nice pace. It was also really interesting hearing about her training for the ultra. The miles ticked by and soon we were back at RVCP and saying goodbye. Thank you Shantha for such an enjoyable run! Hopefully we’ll do it again soon.

In the end I had about 4.5 miles to find to get to 17 and I popped on my podcast to get me through. My legs were feeling fatigued and now I was on my own it felt quite tough mentally. I decided to just run a loop and do some of the Netley parkrun but it did feel like treading water in terms of not being very mentally satisfying. Running loops to get miles in never is. But I got it done and felt fantastic at the end. 17 miles done!

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Average pace overall of 8.30min/miles which I’m really chuffed with considering the terrain. Some good miles in the bag!

I got back in my car afterwards and felt on top of the world. Honestly if I could bottle that post-long run feeling it would sell for millions. I got home, ate my breakfast (I didn’t eat before I ran – though I had made sure I had a big meal the night before. I think this was pushing my capabilities of running fasted though. I’ll talk more about this on another post), showered, walked Alfie and then treated myself to a Starbucks. Starbucks is dangerously close: five minutes by car. I took it home, sat on my sofa, got Runner’s World out and fully relaxed.

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I was so chilled it was lovely. I did some odd jobs and just kind of floated around in a post-long run fatigue and satisfaction.

I met up with my parents for an early dinner at….Coast to Coast (I know, we’re obsessed). We were celebrating my dad’s birthday early (which is Valentine’s Day) and we all love that restaurant so it made sense! I was absolutely famished. I’d had breakfast (well, porridge for lunch considering the timing) and though I’d had some good snacks during the day I was FULLY ready for a big meal.IMG_8250

I went for chicken wings to start (delicious), then the St Louis ribs for main (with the BBQ sauce this time – which made them far more tender) and chocolate brownie for pudding. I felt quite stuffed but absolutely satisfied. Yum.

Then I headed home and had an early night. I was pooped!

Have you been affected by any of the storms recently?

 Do you workout or run fasted?

Do you prefer to run long runs alone or with others?

My favourite podcasts right now

I listen to a lot of podcasts (and audiobooks). I have a fairly boring commute to work (Southampton to Basingstoke) which takes around an hour each way. To pass the time I sometimes like to listen to a podcast as I find the journey passes so much quicker that way. I also listen to podcasts when I walk Alfie and when I do long runs. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s nice to listen to music or to simply just zone out to the sound of the outdoors but it’s also a great way to broader my knowledge on information or just listen to something interesting or funny.

Here are my favourites:

BBC Five Live Film Review

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Simon Mayor and Mark Kermode talk movie reviews. This has been a longstanding favourite of mine. I love watching films but I don’t get to the cinema as often as I like, but I still enjoy listening to reviews of the latest films that are either out or up and coming. The relationship between Mayor and Kermode is great – they have good banter and squabbling between them and it’s often very funny. There are a lot of in jokes as it’s been going on for years but it’s easy to get hooked. I will usually always trust Kermode’s review of a film as well.

Who’s it aimed at? Anyone who has a passing interest in watching movies, whether you go to the cinema or not.

The Empire Film Podcast

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Another film review show, but this time with an ensemble cast of usually three people who change from time-to-time. It’s from the Empire magazine. There’s swearing, it’s silly and it’s very light-hearted (like the magazine). They discuss movie news and answer fun, random listener questions (“best stairway scene in a movie?”). My only slight annoyance is they do have a heavy Marvel love which I struggle with as I’m not that into comic book movies. They always have great sweary interviews with actors, directors, etc.

Who’s it aimed at? Probably more aimed at movie lovers than the Five Live podcast above as it can get geeky with movie news and interviews.

Marathon Talk

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Of course Marathon Talk is on here (I’m going to the Marathon Talk weekend in a few weeks time wheee!). Good running training tips, running news from around the world, funny anecdotes from Tony Audenshaw (from Emmerdale no less), interviews and listener stories. I really like Martin and Tom and they always have a good balance of opinion and information and they’re extremely down to earth. My one peeve is why they still insist on listing all the upcoming marathons at the end of the podcast…does anyone really listen to this?? It goes on for ages and is so dull and repetitive. I always end the podcast before it starts.

Who’s it aimed at? People who love running, but not necessarily just marathons.

Ben Coomber Radio

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Quite a light-hearted podcast based on nutrition, health and performance. It focuses a lot on lifting weights in the gym but it’s not exclusive to that subject. Ben is very amiable and funny and takes a no-nonsense approach. He’s also very knowledgeable with a lot of science and research behind what he preaches. He often co-hosts with Rachel Guy, who’s heavily into lifting weights, so provides a decent insight into that sort of thing and they do Q&A style shows answering listener questions. There’s also a lot of interviews with people from the nutrition and performance industry.

Who’s it aimed at? If you’re interested in solid nutrition advice, going to the gym and just generally being healthy it’s a good one. However it does focus a lot on weight lifting, macros and building muscle/losing fat.

Freakanomics Radio

 

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I used to listen to this one a lot more than I do now. It’s hard to describe but basically Stephen Dubner, an economist (he wrote the Freakonomics book as well) explores social, political and random issues with loads of different guests, from social scientists to entrepreneurs to delve into different problems, questions and oddities with an economist and social science perspective. It’s light-hearted and gentle in terms of heavy science but always very interesting. It is quite US-focused though.

Who’s it aimed at? Anyone who has a curious nature and likes to puzzle things out. Not necessarily deep thinking but a fun way to question the world.

RunnersConnect

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A series of interviews of a wide range of runners, professional athletes, coaches and people with a good knowledge of running or in the industry. It’s led by Tina Muir who I think is awesome. She’s a Brit living in America and is an awesome runner (check out her blog – such a talented runner and a lovely person. She incidentally did her favourite podcasts recently too). This podcast is a great way to get some insight into specific running areas and hear more about certain topics from different people within the industry.

Who’s it aimed at? Anyone interested in running, whether at a beginner’s level or an elite level.

Serial

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You can’t talk about podcasts without mentioned Serial. I binge listened to all the first series a couple of years ago (wow so long ago now!) and haven’t started the second series yet… Anyone tried it? I’ve heard it’s good but it’s not the same ‘story’ as last series which is a shame as I’d love to know what’s going on there. It’s just very well written and you’re kind of drip-fed the story which keeps you going back for more without it seeming like it’s dragging.

Who’s it aimed at? Really anyone. I know so many people of different ages and backgrounds who loved it.

What podcasts do you love to listen to?

When do you listen to podcasts?

Mostly raving #26

Things are fairly positive in my life right now so I actually don’t have much ranting to do, long may it last!

Rave: I’m really proud of myself. I’ve been reducing my excessive intake of squash. I’ve mentioned before on the blog how I tend to drink a lot of squash. Mainly out of boredom at work if I’m honest. It’s not great as I get the sugar-free variety which though is, well, free of sugar it is not preservative-sweetener-colour-crap-free. It’s not that I don’t like the taste of water, it’s just when I’m at work and I fancy something but not necessarily an actual snack I go for squash. Anyway, I’ve switched a few of these times for something a bit better for me: herbal and fruit teas.IMG_8070

I’ve always drank peppermint tea (my absolute favourite) but I’ve added in a few more to keep things interesting. I’ve yet to crack into the salted caramel green tea though as I’m terrified it’ll make me feel sick (green tea always does this to me). I’m thinking though that because it’s mixed with other things it might be less potent to me? Anyway there was a Twinings offer in Tesco so I risked for a biscuit…or a fruit tea in fact.

Rave: I just love him so much.

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It’s OK Alfie, I don’t need much space on the sofa…

Rave: trainers! I have so many pairs it’s ridiculous. I love Strava for keeping me solidly tracked on their mileage as well. I’m a bit of a trainer whore as I don’t really favour any brand in particular. In general I love a good stability shoe as I’m fairly flat footed (though less so than when I first started running due to weekly exercises).

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Mizuno are usually my go-to shoes but my current love are the ASICS Luminus. I tend to cycle through the trainers depending on what I’m doing (i.e. my Boosts tend to be for speed workouts or shorter distance races), how wet/muddy a pair currently are and where in the Cupboard of Doom they sit:

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It’s a balancing act in there…

Rave: if I fancy a kind of naughty snack but not really a full-on face in cake moment I’ve been having these Protein Works Mug Cakes (I wasn’t sent it to review and have no affiliation with them, just bought it as I heard it was nice).Protein Works Mug Cake

Granted it looks pretty terrible in that photo but it’s actually very tasty. Nice and chocolaty with a good texture. It has 148 cals per serving and 20g of protein so it’s nice to top up the protein as well. It just h its the spot when I fancy something quick and tasty in the evening. It takes like 30 seconds in the microwave and you just add water – my kind of baking Winking smile

Rave: I’m listening to a really interesting audio book called The Diet Myth. It goes over all those silly diet trends and looks over scientific data and research surrounding them. It’s really very interesting and has a lot to do with the microbes in our body, which to be honest I’d never even thought about. It’s one of the reasons I’ve switched artificial cheese (like Laughing Cow and Babybells) to real cheese like stilton, Camembert and Brie. I haven’t finished the book yet but from what I’ve heard so far (it’s an audiobook) is variety is key, whole foods are best and avoid artificial crap. No great surprises there, but the rational and science behind it is very interesting.

Rave: my flat is pretty much sorted now. I just need a rug for my living room and I’m there. I’ve tried really hard to make it into a lovely home that I enjoy being in (which I truly do) and a reflection of who I am.Flat decorMy new armchair is a perfect addition. Actually it’s not really an armchair as there are no arms… I also have lots of photos and wall art to give it a nice individual touch. My favourite wall piece is something that was handmade by a family friend, Sue. From an old book she took all the pages and made this:IMG_8108

I love it. I’m a big reader so for me it’s absolutely perfect. There’s nothing I find more relaxing than getting lost in a book.

A single rant: my neighbour had a party in his flat last week. On a Thursday night. A Thursday. I mean seriously, what the hell? I suppose I’m fairly lucky that I’ve had very few problems with my flat so far but this really ticked me off (as, I’m sure, it would most people who work Monday to Friday).

It really agitated Alfie who hadn’t a clue why there was suddenly a lot of door banging, loud music and loud voices coming through our walls. Our flats aren’t even directly next to each other – there’s a corridor we share and that’s it, but I could still hear the music. Alfie would bark every time he heard a loud noise and eventually cuddled right up to my face in confusion (he’s normally down the bottom of the bed). *Sighs*. I only had one ear plug as well as I lost the other one so had to be choosy in which ear got the preferentially treatment.

The next morning I put my radio as close to my door and the wall closest to his flat and whacked up the volume. Now when I get up at 5am in the morning I don’t try my hardest to tiptoe about the place, oh hell no I’m like an elephant. Do not mess with the early riser.

What have been your rants and raves recently?

Do you have considerate neighbours?

Do you read a lot of books?

Excessive cake and surviving long runs

And we’re back at it for another week! Hope you’re all refreshed and raring to go. I’m feeling well and truly into marathon training now and excited for the coming weeks (and when I say excited I mean terrified obviously).

Saturday was the standard parkrun affair at Netley Abbey. I got there early to help set the course up. Our flags for pointing the course directions are so sad and pathetic as they’re falling apart and very shabby. But my running club has donated a chunk of money to help Netley buy new ones so hopefully we’ll be getting them soon – how very exciting! (OK, not that exciting but good news for us who have to deal with dilapidating signs every week).

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After a very stormy and rainy night I was pleased to find the wind had died down somewhat and the rain was MIA. Though the course was very wet and muddy. On driving to Netley I realised I’d forgotten my Garmin – which is quite shocking for me. I’m a data geek so the thought of not recording a run is a bit crazy for me. That’s not to say I have to actually see my watch when I run (‘naked’ runs where I’ll cover up my watch are very freeing and always good to do), but I like to have the data afterwards at least to eyeball my stats. Luckily I had my phone so I could turn on the Strava app, but this was quite annoying as it meant running with my phone in my hand as I don’t normally run with it at parkrun anymore so don’t bother bringing my armband.

I ran with my friend Mark, who’s normally a lot faster than me but was doing a longer run with parkrun wedged in the middle, so he ‘slummed’ it at a slower pace Winking smile Having my phone meant a bit of selfie fun while running, but I’m definitely out of practice as both photos were blurry.parkrun selfie

Always a good laugh! As I was using my phone I couldn’t see (or at least I couldn’t work out how to see) my current pace or distance so I just went by feel. I didn’t want to attempt any great speeds for this parkrun as I was concerned about my 16 mile run I had planned the next day. I found by running hard last Saturday, my Sunday run felt quite tough. My aim was to take it steady as my true speed session was my hill session earlier in the week.

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I’m really pleased with those splits (and overall time of 23:49). I’m not sure how I’ve managed to do this but for whatever reason I can now seem to consistently negative split a 5k. I just save myself some extra ‘oomph’ at the end and then power to the finish. Mentally it works far better for me that way.

Later I met with my parents to go for a nice walk. We went to Stansted House (which is where one of my favourite races in the year takes place: Stansted Slog half marathon).IMG_8025

The house and grounds sadly weren’t open but we had a nice walk regardless and then stopped for a snack in the Pavilion Cafe.

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The cafe was lovely in the greenhouse type building. I saw the cakes and I was sold. I’d already had lunch a few hours earlier so afternoon tea seemed rather excessive… But I wanted something. I couldn’t decide between the bread and pudding cake or a scone with cream and jam. So I went with both. I’ve been craving bread and butter pudding for ages since it’s always for sale at the cafe at parkrun but I never buy it as I don’t want to spoil my breakfast.Pavilion cafe Stansted House

I had the scone first (I had clotted cream with it, not sure why they also gave me a slab of butter as well) and then the bread and butter pudding. I didn’t realise quite how dense the bread and butter pudding would be and found it really filling. I wasn’t sure if I’d actually be able to finish it (this is crazy talk!). I did though obviously.

I also found myself a lovely armchair for my flat (the final piece of furniture for my flat). And luckily we managed to fit it into the car.IMG_8029

I was considering getting an armchair from Next but they take around 12 weeks and are quite pricy. This was a beautiful alternative for over £100 cheaper.

Sunday morning was long run time. I sometimes get nervous about my long runs. I run them on my own and plan the route beforehand but there’s something so daunting about the distance. I felt 16 miles was definitely stepping it up. One way I find that really helps calm myself about it is to mentally run the route. I know the route really well as it’s where I did most of my marathon training last year; along the seafront at Lee-on-Solent and the surrounding areas. I just ticked the miles off in my head and gave myself milestone points to break things down. I really find this helps.

I also told myself to start off slowly. There’s quite a beast of a hill towards the beginning of the run so I didn’t want to knacker myself. Despite continually telling myself to go slowly I still found I was naturally running 8-8.15min/miles. I don’t really look at my watch that much during long runs – I tend to zone out and focus on my podcast. In fact it’s always such a great feeling when your watch beeps and you think you’ve done 6 miles when actually you’ve done 7!.

I know I could really force myself to run slower but should I when it feels that natural? I just don’t know. Last year most of my marathon training long runs were around this speed and I found it really helped make me stronger. I’m not planning on running Boston any quicker – if anything, it’ll probably be slower due to the course being quite challenging. I do think though that for my 18 miler planned in two weeks time I’m going to really force myself to slow down, but then hopefully increase the speed as I go along. I know it impacts the following week otherwise.

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I did struggle mentally though on this run. It was quite gusty along the coast and I just felt like I was plodding and I’d never finish. It just felt like such a long way. Physically I felt drained – probably from ridiculous amounts of sugar the day before. But I did feel good running in terms of no niggles. Thank God.

Afterwards I ate a hearty bowl of warm porridge which was just absolute bliss. I was damp and cold from the run so this just hit the spot.IMG_8035

That and a hot shower and I was human again. I spent the rest of the day just chilling at my flat, eating, watching the Armstrong Lie (very good documentary about Lance Armstrong), walking Alfie and doing general chores. Perfect!

How was your weekend?

How do you mentally prepare for a big workout or long run?

How many speed sessions do you do a week (or targeted sessions where you’re not just doing a steady state workout)?

Training and food lately

I know I start 90% of my posts about the weather, but I’m British soo… It is raining ridiculous amounts at the moment. I realise I’m extremely lucky to not live in any part of the UK that has flooding risks or issues, or places in America that were snowed under, but I can only comment on where I am right now. And it’s soggy to say the least.

Despite the rain and wind, I went out after work and did some hill training on Tuesday evening. I’d wussed out last week to do this specific hill because it’s not lit at all. It’s a long path off the main road and there are no street lights along it so it’s actually really hard to run up it without any light as it winds and turns. I don’t normally run in a headtorch unless I’m trail running when it’s dark, but I needed it for the hill.IMG_7854

Despite the rain, the shorts are back in action – as is my new Forever21 ‘Focused’ top (light and waterproof)

I’ve mentioned this hill before in this post, but basically it’s a12% incline for over 0.2 miles, which usually lasts about 3 minutes. It’s a beast. There’s a Strava segment on it as well and I love to test my fitness to see how well I’m currently running.

I did a mile warm-up then ran up and down the hill three times. I’d planned on four but three was enough! I had my music going (the only way I can survive a solo speed session) and just focused on my form (swing arms, use my bum, look ahead), trying to ignore the pain. The rain was pounding down but I was oblivious to it. I then continued on with my hilly route to make a total of six miles. Honestly, this run was awesome. OK it was painful and tiring but for whatever reason I felt like I was flying. I felt like my form was on point (or as on point as I can achieve!!) and like I was cutting through the rain. When I checked back to my splits and the hill segment I found I’m doing nicely in gaining back my speed. I’m not at my fastest for the hill but I’m getting there.

I love this about marathon training (when I get it right that is…). Seeing the progress, even if it’s tiny, is just so motivating each week. For me the two important things that really help my running are hill training and long runs. I’m always a bit weary of intervals and, whether justified or not, I feel like I dice with injury with them. But with hills I feel I get stronger.

Another important factor for me for marathon training is maintaining my strength work. I know I say this so often but my glute, leg and core work are really important for me to remain uninjured. This involves lifting heavy weights to keep my body strong; big compound moves like squats and deadlifts help strengthen not just your legs but your core and posterior chain. And the more running-specific moves, like wall sits, glute kickbacks, crab walks and box jumps help too. For me the strength side of things isn’t to increase my power or speed, it’s to keep me healthy. It’s also a something I thoroughly enjoy doing – who’d have thought?! Fabletics leggings

I know my focus shouldn’t be on how much I can lift and squat but there is something so empowering about increasing your weights or reps. It’s also, in a weird way, a nice comfort to know I have the love of lifting to fall back to if running and me have another fall out (*touch wood* I don’t!).

I just need to make sure I don’t burn out. Nutrition is a big factor in this and I can assure you, I’m eating lots of good nutritious food. For one thing I’m on a culinary exploration of all the cheeses. So far I’m in love with Stilton… but Camembert and Brie make regular appearances. I’ve found some nice cheese from MuscleFood as well (the French Chevre and Lincolnshire Poacher).Cheese

Lately a lot of my dinners have been fairly simple with meat, veg and cheese. And honestly, I’m loving it!

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Most of my carbs happen earlier in the day: porridge for breakfast and with my lunch at work I have my standard popcorn (home-popped with salt and pepper). I’m not a huge carb eater, as I’ve said a few times on the blog. I don’t eat a lot of bread unless it’s good stuff at a restaurant and I don’t eat pasta. It works for me though!

Tonight I have an easy 5 mile planned, then parkrun on Saturday and a 16 mile run planned Sunday. The long runs are getting longer! Speaking of long runs… In a couple of a weeks I head to my grandad’s in Wales, who I’ve visited a few times. That weekend I had an 18 mile run planned and I mentioned it to him and asked if he had any ideas of good routes. He came back with this:Boston marathon prep

He planned an 18 mile route that compared to the Boston marathon course elevation!! How amazing is that?? I’m so pleased. He’s also offered to cycle alongside me to help navigate and provide a bit of support. I mean, can you get better than that? This is my 82 year old grandfather by the way, who has his own Strava account capturing his regular walks up and down the nearby hills of Llandudno. Yep.

How do you plan your really long runs? Do you go anywhere interesting?

Carbs, protein or fat? What’s your favourite? Unsurprisingly mine is protein!

What do you prefer: intervals or hills?