parkrun, afternoon tea and dogs – a few of my favourite things

For once, I was in Southampton this weekend.

I went to Netley Abbey parkrun on Saturday and was (semi) glad to see that we were doing the cricket pitch course rather than the winter course as there was an event setting up in the area on the summer course. The cricket pitch course (five laps around, you guessed it, a cricket pitch) is an exceptionally dull course. It’s flat and repetitive. However, I prefer it to the winter course has six hills and can be windy.

I helped set up, which was super quick because it’s a simple course, but all on grass so I gradually felt my feet getting more and more wet due to the previous day’s rain. Mike had sensibly brought a spare pair of shoes but unfortunately for him had not brought a spare pair of socks… haha. Wet feet all round.

The barcode sign in the distance in the middle of the field…

I did a quick warm-up (just over a kilometre) and found my legs to be quite heavy and tired. I had umm’ed and arr’ed as to whether I’d put some welly into this run but I could see it probably wouldn’t be that fast. We lined up and headed off. I had a long-sleeve on and even gloves as it was that chilly that morning! It was just a bit of a miserable morning – so different to last weekend (I’m sure all the London Marathoners and Southampton racers were feeling a little cheated).

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

The first mile was a slog and I quickly realised a quick time (for me) wasn’t really on the cards but decided to keep with the effort level and get a solid tempo effort in. I ambitiously wanted to stay around 7min/miles but on the second lap it just felt like a total graft to maintain any sort of speed. There were also tricky areas to navigate through as the grass got more and more muddy.

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

A man was running next to me who was using a metronome – basically it audibly gives off beats so he could work on his cadence (As he told me afterwards). At first I thought I’d find it annoying once I began hearing it but then it became very rhythmical and nice to zone out too. We stuck together for most of the run.On the final mile (and God knows what number lap – I had to keep count on my hand) I felt myself have a spurt of energy. Probably because at this point I just wanted to finish the monotony of running in circles on sodden grass. I finished in 21:19 and a surprisingly high finish of 24 (2nd female). I think a lot of people were resting their legs after London and Southampton half/marathon last weekend.I helped close down and had a drink in the cafe after. Two of my running friends, Kate and her husband Mark, are heading to Devon and it was fun discussing the parkrun challenges of them trying to get all the Devon ones – apparently there are quite a few! I think down South we do very well with parkruns, there always seem to be new ones cropping up all over the place. This is both good and frustrating because just when I thought I was almost done with Bristol and Brighton they start creating new ones!

Later that day I went for afternoon tea with my friends from home. I hadn’t seem them in a while so it was nice to catch up. It’s mental to me that so many have had babies or are pregnant. While also discussing about turning 30 and arranging a big joint birthday party and how we’ all getting “old” I had a moment of, “shit am I a failure here?”.

It’s so easy to find yourself falling down that silly comparison hole. I absolutely do not want a baby right now. I actually couldn’t think of anything worse. I have a lot of plans I’m excited about and I love my life. I love the freedom I have, my holidays and running… not that having a baby means that everything you once loved disappears but it certainly means change and a whole lot more responsibility and proper adulting. But I think it’s so easy to let society tell you you should be living your life in a certain way, especially when you’re surrounded by people who are living that way. I don’t regret the choices I made and the way things have gone – I’m very happy with my life 🙂 Random tangent over!Now onto the important stuff… 😉 Afternoon tea was good but it was a bit too “delicate” for my liking. I’m a big fan of the big slabs of cake and chunky scones and regular sandwiches. Teeny tiny “pretty” cakes aren’t really going to cut it with me. That said, I was the human dustbin for everyone else so I did get a good share of extra cakes and sandwiches!The scones were delicious and the sandwiches were nice but I didn’t massively enjoy the tart (which was like a bland egg custard tart) and I’m never really a fan of creamy desserts that are like posh yogurts (I think it was a lemon posset?). My friend Anna (good name) said to me, “Don’t look behind you Anna, it will really upset you”. Obviously I did… a whole table with so many scones and cakes left behind. NOT EATEN. What!?

Anyway it was lovely to catch up with my friends and eat cake. Good times.

The next morning I met my friend Martin (who I ran the Gosport Half with back in November). I haven’t seen him for a good while so it was nice to touch base with him again, especially while doing a very scenic (albeit hilly) 13 miles. We did an out and back route through Durley which was really very pretty and, for the most part, car free. The hills were pretty savage though!After finishing the run I dashed home to shower and eat breakfast quickly before heading back out to meet Mike for a dog walk. Mike has a 13 week year old Siberian Husky crossed with a Golden Retriever who is just adorable, called Luna. I brought Alfie so Luna had a new friend. We met up in Royal Victoria Country Park (where parkrun is held) and walked round the field before heading to the dog fair that was going on.Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many dogs in one day! There were just so many. All of different breeds and sizes. Alfie was a little bit more wary of the other dogs – he’s very much a lone wolf, whereas Luna wanted to play with EVERYONE and EVERYTHING. Ahh the excitement of a little puppy. I remember when Alfie was like that. He’s almost nine years old. That is MENTAL. I still remember how tiny he was when we picked him up and he sat in my lap. I also remember feeding him a slice of apple and then him promptly throwing it up on my lap five minutes later. Lovely.Anyway, we walked round the stalls, chatted to other dog owners and enjoyed watching the “dog recall” competition (how quickly your dog runs back to you – there was a leaderboard and everything). Then we sat and had a coffee in the cafe outside while Luna enjoyed chasing every napkin that flew past her while Alfie rolled his eyes and tried to avoid getting jumped on.They got on well though despite the age gap. It’s a shame the weather wasn’t a bit brighter but thankfully we dodged the rain on all accounts.

How was your weekend?

Do you like dogs?

How many courses does your parkrun have? Netley has several!

Things I’m loving lately – February/March

I’m sure I write the same thing every year but it’s so nice to be getting into spring. The lighter evenings and mornings… ahh bliss (well, when it isn’t snowing of course).

Bodum Coffee flask: I get up ridiculously early for the gym as you may be aware. It’s actually not that bad anymore. I genuinly enjoy my super early mornings and going to the gym. It’s part of my routine. I’m verrrry routine based and it just fits nicely. I’m an early bird and get decent sleep so it’s only the initial alarm going off that is tough and then I’m awake and raring to go.One of the things I look forward to is my coffee in the car on the way to the gym. While I take Alfie for a walk (in ALL the layers) I’ve put my coffee on and it’s ready by the time I get back. I take it with me on the drive (I use a straw so it’s easier/safer to drink whilst driving) and it’s just bliss. Especially when it’s super cold. The coffee flask I use is a Bodum Vacuum Travel Mug. It is perfect. It’s never leaked or spilt (even when I fill it to the top) and it doesn’t burn my hand to hold while keeping my coffee super hot.

R8 Roller: This isn’t mine. I’ve stolen borrowed it off a friend after Marathon Talk Run Camp.I would buy one myself but it’s from the States so there’s a high shipping cost added on to the actual cost of the product, making it well over £100. I’ve been wanting to try one of these for ages and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s fantastic for your quads and hamstring. Though it’s a bit more awkward on the calf because it also rolls the shin which is a little painful and the glutes are super awkward to do (I’ll stick to my tennis ball). But it’s SO good in terms of pressure and hitting trigger points. Love this.

Lava-Activ Hydration BeltI was sent this hydration belt to test out and review. It’s similar to a hydration belt I’ve used before and got on well. The only annoyance about my previous belt is that the bottles are TINY. During the summer I’d have to top them up mid-way through my long run at my “dodgy tap”. These (BPA-free!) bottles however are a bit bigger (2x 300ml), which is so much better.The belt sat nicely on my hips, didn’t chafe and didn’t bounce. The pocket  is big enough for a few gels, coins and keys or your phone (apparently iPhoner 8’s are fine). It’s not a massive pocket but it’s big enough for what you need!  There’s handily also a pocket divider to prevent items from rubbing against each other. There are also clips to attach a bib, but I’m not a huge fan of doing this.You can wear it either way I think, but I prefer the bottles at the back than the front. It’s predominately black, but the stripe on the pocket comes in three colours (orange, blue or green). You can buy the belt on Amazon.

Cake: OK two things about cake. Firstly, I had the most amazing cake a couple of weekends ago and it ROCKED my world.It was salted caramel flavour and it was divine. The icing was deliciously sticky. Ahhh to have that cake again…

And in other cake news… I’ve won one on Instagram!! I follow the very lovely Nicki Chan-Lam (@Nickichanlam on Instagram) who has a ridiculously huge appetite! And coming from me, that’s big. She posted a competition about a cake giveaway from the amazing bakery Whisk and Drizzle in London and my comment won! I mentioned that it was my mum’s 60th birthday in May. So I win a a Whisk and Drizzle cake which I can pick up when I’m in London (for my mum’s birthday). AMAZING AMAZING. Could I be any more excited?? (said in Chandler’s voice).

Cinema trips: I went to the cinema twice last week. I took my mum to see Finding Your Feet for a Mother’s Day (but not on Mother’s Day as I wasn’t there) treat and she loved it. I mean, it ticked all her boxes of what she loves in a film so I was super pleased she enjoyed it. I enjoyed the night, but the film wasn’t really my kind of thing. I feel for my dad really as that film will probably now be on repeat for the rest of his life. That along with Bridget Jones’ Diary and Mama Mia!

The second cinema trip was with my running friend Joe. Bless him, he cooked me a hearty sausage casserole and then we headed to the very fancy Showcase cinema in Southampton. WITH RECLINING LEATHER CHAIRS. It was epically comfortable. We saw Shape of Water which was so good. It was very dream-like and gentle…you had to let yourself get swept along with it. It was very romantic and I just loved it.

Alfie: And because Alfie hasn’t been featured on the blog in a while, here he is in all his cutness.My heart just melts.

Running: I completely forgot to mention this in my last post, but when I was at the Walsall Arboretum parkrun on Saturday I noticed a woman signing the run director’s instructions. How good is that! I’ve never seen that before but I thought it was such a fantastic idea. Typical parkrun eh being so inclusive and thoughtful 😉

And this weekend is the Reading Half Marathon! I’m quite excited (despite hearing horrible rumours about how cold it’s going to be…please no more snow).I won’t be going for a PB as I’m not in that shape but I will give it a good go I think. I’m in a good place with my running, no niggles (EVERYONE TOUCH WOOD PLEASE) and I feel strong. It’ll be nice to see where I’m at in terms of putting some faster paces on for a long run. We shall see…

What are you loving lately?

Have you been to the cinema recently?

Do you foam roll?

**Full Disclosure: I was sent the belt for free in exchange for a post on Instagram. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Rants and Raves #37

Happy Friday Eve! It’s so strange to me that this is my last Thursday at work… I only have five working days left. I finish next Wednesday then have Thursday and Friday off before starting at Wiggle on Monday. I’m not panicking… yet! Anyway, on to some good ol’ rants and raves.

Rant: Still not running. Dwelling on this is both boring and pointless. I’m cross-training at the gym (elliptical machine. Woo). Fingers crossed it won’t be long. It doesn’t feel like an injury that will put me out for weeks and weeks, but with me you never know. As I said though, ZERO regrets. So can’t complain really.

Rave: While I was on holiday my parents took Alfie to the groomers for me. I’d intended on doing this before (or after) I’d gone to Austria but my parents were taking their dogs so it made sense while they were looking after Alfie. They sent me a photo while I was away so I could see how dapper he looked.They kept his beard thankfully (he’d be practically naked otherwise). My parents upgraded his grooming from the standard one to the super duper pampering which, I’m not even joking, included a blueberry facial. I mean, what? Now I love Alfie, but would I get him a blueberry facial? No. I see Alfie as the Bear Grills of the dog world. He’s a basic pooch. But apparently he enjoyed it. Traitor.

Rant: Having said I see Alfie as a “Bear Grills dog” I might need to backtrack somewhat. When it comes to thunder and lightning he’s such a wuss. He freaks out. He trembles, whimpers, barks, paces… and I do try to be sympathetic and cuddle him but at 2am in the morning my sympathy can somewhat wane a little. I had to put the light on and some music to try and cover up the weather. Neither of which are any more conducive to a good night’s sleep. But it’s fine because Alfie has all day to sleep so don’t worry, his sleeping hours probably wasn’t affected. *Sighs*.

Rave: I’ve mentioned a few times that my dad has been steadily losing weight using Slimming World. My mum and him go every week and, bless him, he always texts me how it goes (how much they lost or gained).He started last September and he’s already lost three stone. That’s obviously quite a lot in under a year but his starting point was quite high. He didn’t make any crazy drastic cuts but just became more conscious about what he was eating and making better choices. He became aware he was eating far too much bread, having extra slices with main meals and as snacks, and he wasn’t eating as many vegetables.

So in reality his meals haven’t changed a great deal, just tweaked a bit, and beer, bread and chocolate kept in moderation. He’s done it in a very slow and sensible way. Losing a lot of weight quickly because you’ve made huge changes to your diet simply to reach a lofty weight-loss goal is never going to be sustainable. My dad still goes out to dinner, still has the odd pudding, he still drinks beer and he still enjoys his food without being hungry or changing his lifestyle in a radical way. Weight-loss and then keeping to that target weight can only happen if you see yourself doing it forever. There’s no point in trying to reach a certain goal and then reverting back to your old ways.

As you can imagine, I’m hugely proud of him. He says he did this because my mum and I were nagging him, but I know that this isn’t entirely true. We’ve nagged him for years. He did this on his own and for himself, and really that’s the best way to do it.

Rave: OK OK I’ve gone a bit marathon crazy with the ones I’ve already signed up to. The New Forest (10th September), Bournemouth (8th October) and Brighton (15th April). And a cheeky one to start 2018…I mean, let’s just quickly put the standard Anna Disclaimer in: who knows if I’ll make any of these marathons (see above Rant 1). But the intent is firmly there. A few people have said that this marathon is rather dull as it’s pretty much all on a boring bit of main road. That may be so, but it’s a “big” marathon that attracts a lot of elites and fanfare due to the prize money and I’ve never been to Dubai so for me it’s more about exploring a different country and being part of something quite exciting. Plus the flights are cheap and the lovely Lily will hopefully be able to show me her favourite avocado on toast haunts. (And there’s a Cheesecake Foactory…).

Rant: My neighbour having a full on rave at 1am. I was particularly tired that evening and not in the mood for his loud music and continuous opening and slamming of his front door. In a perhaps ill-judged move, I went out in my PJ’s and told him sternly to turn it down (#grandmastatus). To be fair to him, he looked very abashed and promptly quietened it all down (perhaps my crazy nighttime hair scared him?).

Rave: Spotted this adorable little fella on my way to grab a coffee in the local Costa.He was just plodding along down the path. I was a bit worried as there’s usually a cat which hangs out down this path but when I walked back down the path later at lunch the cat was just sat next to him without even glancing at him/her.

Rave: Bamboo Towels! I’ve recently been sent some luxury gym towels from The Towel ShopOne of my biggest pet peeves is people not wiping down equipment when at the gym. I mean, it is GROSS. I try not to think about the amount of dried sweat, dirt and bacteria on the equipment when I’m using it and will often over up a seat with a towel to help matters. This is actually really good timing to have been sent these towels as my current white one is looking a bit sorry for itself (and has bright yellow stains on it from where my BCAA’s in my water have dripped on it – making me wonder what it’s doing to my insides…).

Anyway, these towels are SO soft. Like unreal soft.  They’re made with bamboo fibres (ooh er!). They are also three times more absorbent than a standard towel and have anti-fungal properties (ideal for gym use!). They’re also eco-friendly and available in six different colours.I personally love the silver colour. I have a few different sizes – a couple of hand towels and a bigger one which I’ll be using as a bath towel. OMG so soft.

I washed them before using them (I don’t actually do this with clothes or anything – I know that might be a bit weird but I’m not that bothered). With towels I find you need to wash them first otherwise they don’t really “work” if you know what I mean. But after washing and tumble drying, they’re fantastic. Super absorbent. And I love using the smaller towels at the gym. It fits nicely into my gym bag!

Do you wash new clothes before wearing them?

Have you ever tried Slimming World or Weight Watchers?

How noisy are your neighbours?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the towels for free in exchange for a review on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Southsea Food Festival and Why Not Run race

And I’m back home, back to reality, back to normality…and it sucks. OK I’m only partly  joking of course, but the Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp was EPIC. Amazing, fantastic, so much fun and so thoroughly enjoyable. I’ll be writing a recap soon, but for now I’ll recap the weekend just gone.

I got back late Friday night and decided a lie-in and a day off of running was definitely required. parkrun would not be happening! I had a lot to sort out in the morning (*sighs* how much does it suck to be an adult? Can’t someone else unpack, do my washing and buy my food for me? No? Damn). After getting all the boring shizz out the way I headed to Southsea to meet up with my friend, Michelle, for the Southsea Food Festival. Michelle had also been on the Austria Run Camp so it was nice to see her again and bemoan how we wished we were still in Austria and running through forests and mountains.

Southsea was positively buzzing with activity. There seemed to be a lot going on, on the seafront, near the boat lake and of course along the high street where the Food Festival was being held.There was so many vendors giving out tasters and selling an assortment of foods.It was fantastic! Indian food, burgers, sausages, olives, cheese, Spanish food, Caribbean food, cakes (oh the cakes…). So many different options!There was also a cookery demonstration happening (with free mini dishes of what they’d made) and a smoothie tent where you had to cycle in order to blend your smoothie.Michelle and I walked through the crowds to check out each vendor, nibbling on what was being offered. I spotted a huge slab of rocky road and decided straight away I needed that in my life.Then we were on the hunt for something for lunch. My parents met me with Alfie as well which was lovely as I hadn’t seen them for a week. Alfie seemed overjoyed to see me, which just melted my heart.He also very much enjoyed the Food Festival, hoovering up anything that had been dropped.

Trying to choose something for lunch was insanely hard. But we walked past someone who had just ordered a kebab (not a dirty kebab, but a proper fresh and tasty looking one with salad and lamb koftes).It was ginormous. I was sold! I went for a chicken kebab (wrapped in a garlic naan, stuffed with salad and homemade tzatziki. Michelle went for a halloumi one.It was SO tasty. It was a good job it was wrapped in the paper as well as it kept it all nicely together so I didn’t make a complete mess of myself (which so often happens with food and me).My parents were very restrained and just had drinks. I was so proud of my dad as previously at events like this he’d have probably had a good number of different things. He bought himself some chutneys and was content to just try a few tasters and enjoy the atmosphere.

Sunday I was off to do a lapped race by the On The Whistle organisers at Staunton Country Park. The race, Why Not Run, was a 4.7 mile lap with a six hour time limit. If I hadn’t offered to drive two of my running club friends I would have bailed on this race. I was tired, my legs needed a rest and I really had no ambitions to do a crazy number of laps. I’d done almost 50 miles – which is MENTAL for me. I’m the girl who does 25-35 miles a week. I’m not a high mileage runner. But I’d agreed to drive so off I went!These events are very low-key and relaxed. The run director is a lovely guy who put everyone at their ease, reassuring everyone that they could or as much or as little as they liked. I was glad for this because I honestly didn’t fancy doing any running! My legs were heavy and my motivation low. But it was a nice atmosphere so I felt very chilled. I love that they decorated the bibs as well, a great touch.There was a good turn out for Hedge End Running Club, and with a lot planning on doing more than a marathon! Well I felt very pathetic just planning one lap but I knew I needed to be sensible.We set off and my legs felt niggly and tired. To be expected. I straight away knew to keep the pace fairly slow (for me) and to stick with a single running lap. The course was marked out well, you couldn’t get lost, and the marshals very friendly and supportive. It was a very happy and friendly atmosphere.The course ran through Staunton Country Park. It was a little tricky underfoot with pebbled, loose stones and uneven terrain but for the most part it was compact and fairly easy to run on. But it did require some concentration.It was an undulating course with gentle long inclines – not a PB course! It did somewhat sap my energy. But I popped a podcast on and zoned out.

Photo credit: Jon Lavis

As I finished my lap I picked up my wristband (this is how they track the number of laps you do) and headed to the very well stocked aid station.I had a nibble on some sweets and biscuits and drank some water.I knew that my two car share buddies, Sarah and Lucy, were planning on doing at least three laps so I decided to head out for another lap, but this time walking. It was a nice day and it seemed a shame not to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. I did get quite a lot of people asking me if I was OK and whether I was injured. I reassured everyone I was fine and just didn’t want to run anymore this week.

Photo credit: Jon Lavis

I joked with the photographer as I walked passed that my photo would be rather boring! I was tempted to do a crazy pose but decided not to subject the poor guy to it 😉Sarah did three laps and Lucy amazingly did four. Lucy has never run over a half marathon so was super chuffed – as she should be! And she’d been planning on 10 minute miles and had smashed it out with 9.30s! She was buzzing. I was very pleased for them, but equally happy that I hadn’t got carried away and attempted to run anymore. When the body says no, I now listen!So despite not really fancying this race and it being terrible timing, I had a lovely morning. I’d love to do this race again (or another On The Whistle one) when I’m more fresh and ready for it!I fully recommend this event as a lovely low key lapped event.

Have you ever done a timed lapped event?

Do you enjoy food festivals? Which ones have you been to?

Things I’m loving lately – June

*Whispers* I don’t want to speak too soon, but I have had a pretty decent streak of running uninjured.

I mean I had a blip after Tokyo with my ankle, but after a week off I was good to go again. It’s kind of all going…dare I say it, OK??Two marathons and now onto my next bout of marathon training, please let it continue to go as smoothly!

So as I’m in a pretty good mood with my running, I thought I’d continue these happy vibes with some things I’m loving lately.

The new series of My Dad Wrote A Porno podcast: If you’ve never heard of it or think it sounds weird, you really just need to give it a go. It is HILARIOUS. Like actual laugh out loud comedy. I binge listened to the first two series and now they’ve just started the third series. They have fans such as Daisy Ridley, Elijah Wood, Michael Sheen. I can’t recommend it enough.

Dogs of parkrun: I love how many dogs come out to parkrun. Not all of them run, but it’s lovely to see them ‘supporting’. I took a photo of some of the ones I saw at Netley at the weekend and made a collage.All so lovely. I know that dogs at races/parkrun can be annoying but I’m a big dog lover so to me I’m happy to have to dodge around them and their leads. I’d love to run with Alfie but I’m worried that as he’s a bit older (almost eight!) it might not be a good idea. He’s never run further than half a mile so I’d need to start very slowly with him, which at the moment I don’t really have time for. He loves racing about on his own though.

SIS products: I really love these products I’ve been sent. I don’t actually take the Overnight Protein Powder in the evening as it suggests but I have it in my porridge every morning (about 15g). I like to boost my porridge in this way to get some added protein and it adds a nice chocolate taste. It really isn’t overwhelming sweet.They suggest taking the protein powder in the evening due to the casein content (80% casein and 20% whey from the milk protein). Casein works while you’re asleep, stimulating muscle protein synthesis. It’s low in fat and carbs as well. Like I said, I like how subtle the chocolate taste is so it goes really nicely in my porridge (I add it to the oats before I microwave it). I’m not a huge fan of overly sweet porridge. It also makes a nice hot chocolate as well when mixed with hot water!

And as I’ve mentioned previously, I love the Go Caffeine Shots. These are going to become pre-race staples for me. I’d normally have a cup of black coffee before a race but I hate drinking too much liquid. This shot is only 60ml so is perfect, so I can still hydrate well with water.

The tropical flavour is definitely my favourite over the cola flavour though. The cola one is just a bit too sharp/sour.

Having a clear out: My drawers are currently bulging with the amount of fitness clothes and race t-shirts I own so I decided to have a clear out. I donated a load of tops from races that I wasn’t too bothered about (really old 10ks) and then separated t-shirts I wanted to keep but would no longer wear, such as marathon t-shirts.

I’ve decided at the end of the year I’ll get a blanket made up of my race tops as a nice way to keep the t-shirts and remember the race. I’ve found this website that does it. It’s expensive, which is why I’m waiting until the end of the year so I can add (HOPEFULLY) a few more shirts to it.

I’d like to do something with my bibs as well (I always save them as well as my medals) but I’m not sure what at the moment. A friend of mine put them on his wall and that looked cool, but I don’t really have the space. Maybe a big scrapbook or something.

What do you do with your race t-shirts and bibs?

Do you use any SIS products?

Do you have long running streaks or are you injury prone like me?

**Full Disclaimer: I’ve been sent the SIS products for free to test out for a review on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**