Birthday celebrations – friends, running and ALL the food

This weekend was a scorcher! I was so pleased the weather was good as I was off to London on Friday afternoon to see my friends to celebrate my birthday (which is today…booo! On a Monday!).

I headed up to London on the train and met my lovely friend, Charlotte, for dinner. We decided to go for a Mexican meal and it fully hit the spot! Charlotte’s just changed from being a veggie to eating meat, and this still blows my mind. She ordered a chicken skewer and chicken tacos, while I ordered chicken wings and chicken fajitas.It was SO good. It fully hit the spot of what I wanted that evening. I even got to finish off Charlotte’s skewer as it was just a bit “too meaty” for her (she’s still adjusting to being non-veggie) and she’s also a normal person who doesn’t eat stupid amounts like I do! And of course, a cheeky frozen margarita was in order.

And what finishes dinner perfectly? Some pudding of course! I was on the hunt for something tasty…and found a lovely little waffle and dessert cafe to satisfy my cravings.From there we headed to some bars for drinks and then met our other friend Laura, who lives in London, and headed to Camden for some dancing. It was such a fun evening. I’ve been feeling a bit stressed and a bit frustrated with a few things so this was EXACTLY what I needed. We got to Laura’s, where we were to be staying overnight, at 2.30am. Pooped!

Now being the running-obsessed person I am, I had my alarm set for 7.30am to head to Wormwood Scrubs to meet our other friend, Kate, for some parkrun tourism. She’d driven down from Bristol and had found Wormwood Scrubs parkrun was the easiest for her to get to and a good spot for her to leave her car without paying a fortune. Also, she spec’ed out the place and found that the local running clubhouse had showers! So she brought me a towel and some shower gel to use, bless her.

When my alarm went off at 7.30am I was a little worse for wear but got myself together to leave by 7.45am and onto the tube. I was a bit of a walking zombie but got there on time and with no issues. Have I finally become a real adult!?Wormwood Scrubs is next to a huge prison (you can see it in the bottom left photo above). I had no idea but it was literally right next to the park. Interesting!Wormwood Scrubs parkrun is all run on grass and is 2.5 laps. It’s a bit uneven underfoot and though it appears flat, does actually have some deceptively sneaky inclines. I was having some serious hay fever issues that morning (damn Stingy Anna for buying Tesco’s own hay fever tablet) so this was giving me problems. Lots of sneezing and my eyes were SO itchy. Being in the middle of a field didn’t help.Nothing huge or could be called a hill, but it does increase the effort level. Considering I was feeling a bit, er, tender and the temperature was already at 23 degrees I made the sensible decision to go easy. Actually, that’s a lie; I couldn’t have gone faster even if I tried!!

I finished drenched in sweat and glad to stop. That was a tough one! I got 23:07 and was happy with that!

Sadly my friend Kate lost her footing a bit and hurt her calf. She had to walk a fair bit of it. But she powered through. Hopefully it’ll heal up quickly – we have another obstacle race soon!Wormwood is a really small parkrun. They regularly get less than 100 people there each week (it was actually a course attendance record on Saturday with 107 people). It was very friendly and felt very welcoming. It was nice to go to such a small one. It gives it a nice community spirit feel.

Thankfully we were able to find and use the showers in the nearby sports area. They were very basic but they did the job! Very grateful for Kate bringing her shower stuff as otherwise we’d have had to have been sweaty all day because we weren’t going back to Laura’s. Instead, after showering, we headed to Covent Garden to meet Laura and Charlotte again. They had had a lie-in (very jealous) and were feeling a bit more refreshed than I did when I woke!

We then headed away from the main Covent Garden area to look for somewhere for brunch. It was now past 11 and we were all hungry. I spotted a nice looking place but it was heaving and had no seats so we headed to a pub across the road. It was empty. I was dubious. But with no other nearby options we decided to go for it. I am SO pleased we did. And, to be fair, it wasn’t exactly peak pub time so you can’t really blame it for not being busy!

I ordered a Full English (of course) and honestly it ranks as one of my top three Full Englishes, EVER.It came with home-made hash browns. Normally I’m not a hash brown fan but home-made? I thought I’d give them a go. And I’m so glad I did!

The whole meal was incredible. Te beans were homemade and had a slightly spicy kick. Everything tasted amazing. I was definitely well refuelled!

We then walked to Green Park (with iced Starbucks, it was SO hot) and relaxed. We passed through Leicester Square and saw them setting up the premier for the new Transformers film. Very cool (though I don’t actually like the films. Urgh Michael Bay).It was such a beautiful day and so nice to catch up and chat with my friends. We weren’t a full group as one of our friends has just recently had a baby (this blows my mind) but it was nice to see the other girls.

Then we headed back to Covent Garden to indulge in a very tasty treat. This was my only request for our time in London, having seen these bad boys on Instagram and heard about how tasty they are. Freakshakes from Maxwell’s. Oh. My. God.A salted caramel milkshake with a salted caramel donut on top. My gawwwwwwd it was So good.I mean, I was covered in stickiness trying to eat this but it was phenomenal. And yes, I finished it! A perfect end to what was a really lovely, lovely birthday celebration. Even without all the amazing food, it was just so nice to have a beautifully sunny weekend chilling (and dancing!) with my friends. I went home very happy (and possibly in a deep sugar coma).

Have you ever had a freakshake?

If you had good weather, how did you enjoy it?

Have you ever seen a film premier?

D Day 10k 2017

I went to bed the Saturday night before the D Day 10k at 9pm. This is despite getting up at the more leisurely time of 7am and having had an hour long nap at 6pm in the day. My body felt knackered. Last week had been a total grind.

All week I didn’t felt myself. I felt unwell, though not in like a dodgy tummy or sickness way but in a lethargic, foggy and overwhelming tiredness way. It felt like a virus as I didn’t feel right in myself, but other people have suggested low iron levels or over-training. But I don’t think it was. My heart rate, in general, had been normal when I woke up and during the day. But who knows.

ANYWAY. So I didn’t have particularly high hopes for D Day. Despite my early night and 8am alarm (so a very cushty 11 hours sleep) I woke up still not feeling like my normal sprightly self. But I wanted to do the race more to just be social and have a run with other people. I’d only mope about on my own and then do a feeble run later in the day anyway.

My friend Mike picked me up with his daughter and we headed to Portsmouth. Neither of us were “feeling” the race and we moaned about how rubbish we felt. We spoke to a few others and in general people were feeling a bit pants about it. But the sun was shining, it’s a flat course (albeit a lot of around a car park) and there’s a Starbucks just next to the finish.I said to Mike and my friend Geoff that I hoped to do sub-50. From parkrun the day before I just didn’t think my legs were going to perform well. Running was hard work recently. Mike was aiming to beat his PB but wasn’t sure how he’d fare. I was pleased to find that I could wear my Aftershokz headphones as they’re “bone conducting” so complied with regulations. I definitely needed something to keep me going!I hadn’t had breakfast that morning as I didn’t want to get up any earlier than 8am but had a glass of water with electrolytes and then an SIS caffeine shot 30 minutes before the race start. I hoped it would rev me up a bit.I did half a mile gentle jogging (something I rarely do but I had time on my hands) and then we headed to the start.We held a minute’s silence in respect for the victims of the London attack the night before just before the start, which was a sombre but respectful thing to do. Then we started. I had my music on and got going. As I weaved around people in front of me and got into my stride I found that I felt quite good. Nothing like the heavy leg and fogginess I’ve felt on my other runs that week. I checked my watch and was surprised to see 7:15min/mile pace. I genuinely wondered if my Garmin was playing up but decided to just go with it.

I kept with a guy from the club, Bernie, for a while and then felt myself getting stronger and overtook him. I actually couldn’t believe how strong I felt and yet how quick (for me) I appeared to be going. I decided to see what I could do. If I crashed and burned then so be it, but right then I felt comfortable.

The course itself at D Day is a bit dull. I’ve done it before a good few years ago but it’s changed hugely. It’s unrecognisable to what I ran previously. I knew there were three laps but I couldn’t work out where that would happen. I just kept focused on the runners ahead of me and gradually picked them off.

As I got into mile two, now down to 7min/miles, I was still wondering where this speed and ease of running had come from. The course was super flat and the wind, fairly gentle, seemed to be mostly going sideways at us or as a tailwind. Occasionally we’d run against it but it was only brief moments. Everything seemed to be on our side.I passed a guy who normally is miles ahead of me and wondered if he was just plodding it or having a bad day (I later found he was using it as a training sessions: first 5k easy, and then 1k sprints – wow!). I gentle passed runners and had no one pass me, which felt really nice! Though to be fair, it wasn’t a particularly big field.

There’s a section of the course that runs down a gravel path and alongside a lake and lots of greenery which was fairly pleasant. It was annoying to run on gravel at 10k speed but it was a nice change from the boring and hot car park that made up a chunk of the race. We were under some shade which was nice, but the path seemed to go on forever.

Halfway there was a water station and I grabbed a drink. I wasn’t terribly thirsty but it was hot so I swigged a good few mouthfuls before tossing it to the side (always a delicate operations to a) not hit other runners, b) not hit any spectators, c) not throw it somewhere really obscure that it can’t be cleared away later).

I hit four miles and now the effort level was high. I was in the zone of “stay with it, keep pushing” while all the time wondering when I was going to blow or have a wobbly. I felt the energy slowly being sapped out of my legs and tried to remember all the amazing food I’d eaten the day before that I was sure would still be helping me. I cursed myself for not having breakfast but wondered if that would have helped. Who knows.

The last mile down that gravel path was tough. I found myself alone now. The runners ahead too far away to catch and no one behind me giving chase. Mentally it was tough. Physically it was tougher. I was then off the gravel and onto the final stretch of pavement to the finish.My watch beeped 6 miles and I told myself to just hold on for a few moments more. A “400m to go” sign appeared and I could see the finish ahead. Ah, smile for the camera (I’m sure that was a grimace…), “200m to go”, keep going, keep going. Annnnnd finish!No wobble but the sheer sense of effort and “God I feel sick” feelings hit me. I bloody hate 10ks. My watch said 43:13. I was over the moon. I couldn’t remember my PB but I knew it was 42-something. I checked my blog as that’s where I keep a list of PBs (so handy) and found I was only 23 seconds off!

There was a small Hedge End Running Club turn-out due to other events happening (*sobs* the Romsey Beer and Cake race being one) but it was a nice gathering. For the most part, I think people did fairly well and were happy. Mike achieved his PB as well so he was happy (once he’d finished dying on the grass).And finally a few of us headed to the very nearby Starbucks and we celebrated with some tasty coffee (I went for decaf as I’d already had that SIS caffeine shot – which, by the way, I think really helped my race!)So from initially not even wanting to show up to D Day, to being close to my PB…well, a definite turnaround! I’m really pleased that since January my 10k time has come down from 46:26 from the Stubbington 10k, to 45:27 from the Brighton 10k in April, now to 43:13. Annoyingly my official chip time is 43:22. Initially the race organisers had issues with some of the chips so I only had a gun time of 43:27 and then they added the chip time later (43:22). Though I’m not sure that’s accurate either as I spoke to a few others in the same boat and their watch times and new chip time don’t match at all either. Hey ho, 43:22 is still a big mark of progress though!

I’m not aiming to improve on this 10k time as marathon training is about to begin, but it’s always nice to naturally get quicker. I have another 10k in July so we’ll see how much of an improvement I can make, but I won’t be losing sleep over it! I do so hate 10ks…

What’s your favourite race distance?

What’s your favourite post race drink?

Have you ever surprised yourself with a race result when you weren’t feeling it?

**Full Disclaimer: I’ve been sent SIS products to test for free in exchange of reviewing them on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

The Botanist – Reading

When you love food as much as I do, getting invited to a restaurant launch is probably up there with a dream evening. A new restaurant has just opened in Reading, called The Botanist.

The Botanist is a chain but with only a few locations. I first heard about and went to The Botanist in Chester after the Chester Marathon. I was blown away by the look of the restaurant interior – so pretty and adhering to its botanical-theme.  So I was curious to see what the one in Reading would be like.

I invited my friend, George, to join me as he lives in Reading and is a fellow lover of food. It was a Thursday night which was somewhat of a bummer but hey I’m not complaining! We headed there straight from work, hungry and ready to go. Being the keeners we are, we arrived ten minutes too early so decided to ‘waste some time’ in a delightful Turkish cafe down the road. I had a freddo cappuccino which rocked.

Anyway, back to The Botanist. On arrival we were offered Prosecco or beer. We went for a glass of bubbly and enquired about what the event would entail.Apparently lots of free drink (an open bar, anything you want) and then canapes at 7.30pm. I was somewhat disappointed that the food would “just” be canapes (check out the menu, so many tempting options!) and seemed so far away. But hey we rolled with it and decided to do a lap of the restaurant to check the scene.

The restaurant is so beautifully decorated. I just love how they keep to the theme! Flower pots, plants, flowers…so pretty.It was filling out quickly with lots of people so we decided to head to the outside area and chill with our bubbly. The restaurant has a small but lovely outside area which was delightful to enjoy in the evening sunshine.We also noticed lots of cool looking cocktails being handed out. Some of which were in plant pots!! The Botanist is well known for it’s very cool cocktails, again all botanically themed.The barmen and ladies were lovely and friendly and, as you can see very happy to have their photo taken. Anyway, sadly as I was driving I couldn’t partake in much drinking but had insane amounts of Diet Coke instead…love that stuff.George and I grabbed one of the above cocktails after a bunch were made. I tried a sip (divine, so tasty!) and gave the rest to George. Lucky guy, he lived just down the round.We were sad not to be able to try the plant pot cocktails but these were very tasty.

And then finally we saw canapes being brought out. By this point, George and I were VERY hungry. The waitresses (who were working very hard indeed that night! And were super friendly and helpful) were bringing out these boards of canapes and putting them on tables. We didn’t have a table and they were walking straight past us. Cunning work needed to be done.

I saw a waitress with a board and asked her if I could have one “for our table”. She gladly handed one over, yesss! George and I quickly found an edge of a table to perch it on and like locusts attacked. The canapes were DELICIOUS.

And from then we seemed to score big time on the canape front. After three more boards we decided to head outside again for some fresh air as it was quite busy inside. We luckily found a table and I chilled with my Diet Coke while George sipped a beer. And then a waitress came over and gave us another board. Amazing.We rated our favourites (now serious canape connoisseurs). The chicken lolly pop was the best, hands down. Followed by the pork belly skewer (neither shown in this pic annoyingly). The quails egg Scotch egg rocked our world too. A fellow patron came over and asked to have one of our Scotch eggs as she’d seen them and hadn’t been able to try one yet. George and I looked at each other, both clearly trying to think of a polite way to say no (yes, even though this was our fifth board…), when another board passed by and we told her to grab it. Whew! Crisis averted 😉

Basically the food was amazing and worth the wait. I’ve never been so full on canapes before in my life! It was great being there with George who was as food-centric as me. Then we headed back into the restaurant and enjoyed the live music and the free drinks (well, Diet Coke for me).The music, the food, the drinks…all made for a fantastic evening. I’ll definitely be finding myself in Reading again soon to go back for a proper meal. I’m really pleased this one has opened up closer to me as I was sad when I realised there were none nearby after I had such a great meal in Chester.

We eventually left, goodie bags in tow, and headed for a some pudding at a local ice cream parlour. It ended the evening perfectly.Cookie dough ice cream and fudge brownie. Delightful!

Have you ever been to The Botanist?

What’s your favourite canape?

What’s your favourite cocktail?

**Full Disclaimer: I was invited to the opening of The Botanist in Reading in exchange of a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Long running and being forgotten

The second part of my bank holiday weekend was just as full of running and eating as the first part.

On Sunday I met up with Mike for a long run. I’ve become quite used to running with other people for a long run that I tend to not look forward to running on my own as much. It’s weird because I used to love long running solo so much more. I think it’s just perhaps because I’ve been training for marathons so often that I need to change things up.

I’ve also found when I run with others I run a lot slower, close to 9min/miles rather than 8min/miles. As I won’t be running on my own for the New Forest Marathon and will be running slower than I normally would (as I’ll be pacing Mike), this does make sense. Plus it makes the training a lot less intense and more enjoyable right now. Perhaps this is why I’ve managed to remain uninjured…who knows (*cough* let’s be honest, this is the way it’s normally done during marathon training and I definitely do need to slow down long runs). That said, I won’t be running all my long runs with others as I know mentally I need that time by myself running.

So anyway I ran 1.5 miles to the location I was meeting Mike. He was nice enough to meet closer to where I was (I was at my parent’s – they live about 15 minutes from Southampton) as I had a good route for about 11 miles that was quite pretty along the coast. It was fairly warm but not as oppressive as the day before. It was nice doing my usual route with someone else and the miles flew by as we chatted away.

I will explain why those mile splits look weird and actually further than 12.75 miles! The first reason is that I stopped my watch when I got to my parents so I could throw my water bottle on the drive after I decided to run back to Mike’s car…but I then accidentally saved the activity. So then had to start my watch again to record the last 1.5 miles recorded as we got going again.

For Mike to get a sub 4 hour marathon we need to be running around 9 min/miles so this kind of training is good. I ran back to Mike’s car so I totalled almost 13 miles whereas Mike did over 11. A good solid long run. Mike kindly drove me back to my parents and we waved goodbye. As I knocked on my parent’s door I realised both cars weren’t there…and I didn’t have a key. Hmmm. I decided to just chill outside on the grass as I’d said I’d be finished at 11am and it was just that now. As time ticked by I realised perhaps they weren’t coming back for 11 and had forgotten I didn’t have a key.

As I’d run 11.75 miles I decided I might as well run 1.25 miles to get up to 13 as it meant I could run along the pavement that I knew my parents would drive along if they were to come back and then I could hop in the car with them. Nope, still not back. Then I walked to the shop and bought a drink as I was now really thirsty. I was lucky that the weather was so nice as if this had happened in winter I might have been huddled in the garage instead!Eventually my dad arrived back at 12. He looked surprised to see me. As well he might!! Ah well. My time for any sort of breakfast had disappeared as we were planning to have a BBQ at 1pm so I had a shower instead.

And then to add insult to injury, I walked with my mum to the Stubbington village to buy a Costa to find their coffee machines weren’t working. And then it started raining. The universe is out to get me!

We decided to have the BBQ anyway as we had all the food, and to be honest we’re British and if you plan a BBQ you DO the BBQ regardless of the weather.My dad manned the BBQ under a large parasol and would run back into the kitchen with plates of cooked food for us to eat inside. We had a lovely spread of chicken skewers, turkey skewers, steak and burgers. Delicious and much needed refuelling!

Monday was a fairly boring day. I went to the gym, I did lots of housework and food prep for the coming week… but it’s always nice to get that stuff done. I met with my parents for coffee but otherwise had a very relaxed day. Sometimes you just need it!

How did your Bank Holiday weekend go?

Have you ever been locked out?

Have you ever BBQ’ed in the rain?

A weekend of running and vegan food

I know, vegan food and me. I’m like the biggest meat-eater and meat-lover alive…but first let’s start with parkrun.

I was back at Netley parkrun this Saturday which was nice. The weather was lovely, though there were some loitering dark clouds overhead which thankfully didn’t come to anything during our time there.I helped with set-up as usual. We were on the summer course…three laps with three hills, oh joy. I actually don’t mind this course as it breaks up the running monotony that can come with a flat course.I’ve recently been sent some SIS products to test out so I thought it the ideal occasion to test out their new caffeine shots. I gave one to my friend, Mike, as well for him to try. We toasted to a good parkrun and downed the 60ml shot.I had the tropical flavour, which has a very sweet and sour flavour to it. It contains 150mg of caffeine so a hefty dose for such a small bottle. I really like the taste of these (though they are quite sour) and I’m keen to test it out in other scenarios, like pre-races and pre-early morning gym sessions when I need a kick up the backside.

Photo credit: Chris Stapleford

I did feel, whether psychologically or physically, ready to hit the ground running at the start. I gave it my best but it was tough having become so used to the flatter courses. The hill kind of breaks your flow a bit but I do prefer a three lap course and mentally it’s a lot more interesting.My time was 21:30. I gave it a good effort and with the hills I’m quite happy with this time. Though looking back the last time I was on the Netley summer course I got 21:38 so the progress isn’t that great! I’m not too bothered about parkrun times in general but it’s nice to keep track of my times and see progress being made. I do feel that my running has become somewhat lazy recently though. I will run the majority of my runs all the same pace. I need to get back into doing some speed work if I do want to get a bit faster. Maybe once every two weeks? That’s the intention anyway.After parkrun, and scoffing down half a large slice of cake that my friend’s daughter was eating (she needed help, I was more than happy to assist!) I headed home to get ready to head out to have coffee with my mum, dad, sister, her fiance and my nieces.We had a lovely coffee and then mooched around the shops. I got some nice pieces from H&M, including a £7 leather jacket! I don’t actually understand why it was so cheap and thought it was marked up incorrectly. There’s nothing wrong with it but I won’t argue with the price! I now have a good outfit sorted for my birthday trip to London next month with my girlfriends. Whoop whoop!

I’d planned to do a long run from my parent’s house the next day, around 10-13 miles, but then via my running club Facebook group I heard a couple of people heading out at 9am for around 10 miles which sounded perfect. It’s always nicer to run with other people so I tagged on with them.

I’m so glad I did as the miles just fly by when you’re with company as you’re chatting away. Also I didn’t have to think about the route as they already had something planned. It was a lovely route through Manor Farm, which is a local park/woodland area with lots of off-road trails and a couple of hills.

Unfortunately one of the guys felt ill and decided to stop at 4 miles. After checking he was OK and him pushing us to carry on, we continued on. It was just the two of us then, a lovely lady from the running club and myself, and it was just such a nice run, both in company and the route.

After the run I rushed back home to shower and get ready to head out to meet my lovely friend, April. She’s a fellow blogger who’s mum lives in Southampton so was down for the week. We’ve been meaning to catch up and she knew of a very cool-sounding vegan restaurant, Off Beet in Wickham. I’ve seen her numerous Instagram posts for this cafe but have never been myself so it seemed like the opportune moment.Located in the old mill, it’s quite hidden away. It’s a small set-up, with only a few tables so booking is necessary, and the menu is quite small but everything is home-made and beautifully presented. I was quite hungry by this point so I was won over by the beetroot burger with polenta chips.

It was really tasty. The burger was made up primarily of beetroot with lots of vegetables and salady bits in a portobello mushroom “bun”. There was also cashew cheese on the burger! The sauce was a home-made sugar-free BBQ sauce with polenta chips.It was very tasty (like like the plate tasty) but I wasn’t quite full afterwards. You know me, big appetite and all that. Thankfully April is the same so we decided pudding was a necessity.

We both had the brownie cheesecake (yes, still vegan!) and I went for a 70% hot chocolate made with almond milk. WOWZA. Rocked. My. World.It was so creamy and tasty. Not hugely sweet like a Cheesecake Factory cheesecake but sweet enough to be very yummy indeed. This certified meat-eater approves! See, I can forgo meat occasionally 😉

It was a lovely afternoon catching up with April (both of us discussing all things running and our wanderlust desires of travelling and seeing the world…). And the sun was shining which just made it perfect.

Do you enjoy vegan food?

Have you ever tried a caffeine shot?

Do you do intervals or speed work regularly?