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?

Lee-On-Solent parkrun and a kebab fuelled long run

This weekend I was still at my parent’s house. I thought I’d hate this week of living at my parent’s but actually, aside from not being able to go to the gym in the morning and the 30 minutes extra on my commute (1.5 hours to work!) it’s actually been really nice.

I can’t exactly put my finger on why. Perhaps it’s the ease of walking Alfie (just walk out the front door rather than go up and down two flights of stairs), the larger space and more rooms, the garden and I suppose the general familiarity and comforts of my childhood home.

That said, I am looking forward to going back to my flat though. There is something so lovely about having your own space and independence. And a shorter commute…As my parent’s live in Stubbington the closest parkrun is Lee-On-Solent so I decided to go there on Saturday as a bit of a change. It was their 100th parkrun birthday as well so it seemed quite fitting. A bit of a lie-in as well was nice as it meant I didn’t need to leave as early as it’s so close.I decided to park 1.5 miles away so I could run there as a bit of a warm-up to wake the legs up. Clearly LoS parkrun is a popular one! The start area got very busy as 9am drew closer. Gosport Road Runners had “taken over” for the week so there were lots of yellow shirts all over the place. There was also a pacing event. A friend I knew through social media, Ben, was running 21 minutes and had suggested I run with him as I wanted to break it again this week, like I had last week.

I’m in the red t-shirt

I wasn’t entirely sure whether sticking with a pacer was a good idea as I like to run at my own pace. I tend to start slower and get faster and I wasn’t sure I wanted to give over my pacing control to someone else, as nice as Ben is!

I lined up near him anyway, fairly near the front as it gets ridiculously busy at the start and as I was aiming for a particular time I wanted to give myself the best opportunity. It worked out well as, though it was busy, I was able to have no issues at the start with dodging round people or being hemmed in.

I lost Ben immediately. He started so quickly. In my opinion, far too quickly! I was looking at my watch and it was between 6.40-45min/miles so I can’t imagine how fast he was running to suddenly be quite a distance ahead. I was glad I hadn’t stuck with him. I’m not even sure I could have anyway. (I spoke to him afterwards and he says he always tries to start quickly…).

So I kept to myself and focused on keeping my legs going. I felt strong but it was tough. This was proper full effort being put it. The wind was somewhat favourable on the first mile, but as we turned around it was slightly against us so this added to the pain. Somehow I was able to gain a little bit more speed as the parkrun continued and when we made the other turnaround to head back to the finish I was able to push on, now with the physically and psychological help of the wind. There’s one ramp you have to run up and down and as you come down the other side you can see the finish ahead. I looked at my watch and saw 20:30. I knew I’d never get to the finish under 21 minutes. It was just too far. But I kept up the pace and sprinted to the end. My time was 21:15 and I’m happy with that. I couldn’t have pushed any harder.Though it wasn’t a sub-21, I do think I ran faster than last week at Netley. When I compare my splits I run slightly faster each mile. As with all parkruns this could be due to the courses being slightly different lengths. Alternatively it could be GPS error on either one so who really knows! Either way I’m more than happy with my fairly consistent running right now.After finishing and chatting with some people I knew (and a lovely and speedy blog reader – hello Graham!), I headed to the tail runner to walk with my friend, Rebecca, who was doing her first ever parkrun. Rebecca actually has volunteered like a zillion times but only recently decided to give doing one a try. She did amazingly! She was chatting away as she was walking and looked quite comfortable. I told her it would only get harder now as the next time she did one she’d need to beat this time 😉 Huge well done to her, she’s a star and a lovely, lovely person.

Then we surveyed the cake selection… of which was SO impressive.There were so many different kinds of cakes, from cup cakes, to brownies, to lemon sponges, Victoria sponges… And the amazing parkrun cake!As much as I wanted to fill my boots with ALL THE CAKE, I decided to play it sensible and not have anything as I still needed to run 1.5 miles back to the car. I know, I know, who even am I!?The run back felt harder than the run there, for obvious reasons, but it was nice to shake my legs out a bit. As I got closer to the car rain started to drip down and I literally just made it into the car before a downpour began!

After a day of odd jobs and a lovely coffee catch-up with a friend, I headed to my friend’s house for a girl’s evening. I had my second take-away of the weekend…! I hadn’t planned on two take-aways but I’d promised myself an Indian for Friday night and the girl’s night with a cheeky take-away was only planned at the last minute. So I switched it up and had a kebab. I haven’t had a kebab in YEARS.And as takeaways go, it wasn’t the worst thing I could have had. Pizzas and fish and chips tend to rank quite badly in terms of “overall unhealthiness” due to their carb and fat content, not to mention salt. Fair enough the quantity of kebab I had was not what you’d class as a healthy meal (go big or go home…always my mantra unfortunately) but if I’d have gone for a slightly smaller one, my chicken shish and kofta kebab with a pitta bread and salad was actually a fairly OK meal in the great take-away universe. Though it was still fairly salty and the meat quality probably wasn’t that great. It tasted insanely good though.

But anyway, we enjoyed a nice evening in with food, chatting and a good film. It was a late night but I decided to treat myself to a lie-in the next morning. I actually slept until 9.30am! (Though I did have to get up at 5am to let the dogs out…).

I woke up not feeling like my long run at all but decided to just head out for six miles and see how I felt. Ideally I wanted 10-12 but I felt so lethargic and unmotivated that I didn’t think that would happen.

Heading out after 10am on a very sunny and warm day wasn’t entirely wise, but I tucked a £2 coin in my sports bra just in case I needed water. I listened to a new favourite podcast (My Dad Wrote A Porno… if you haven’t heard it, you really must. It’s literally laugh out loud funny). The first few miles were about as horrific as I’d envisaged. I had heavy legs, I felt overly hot and I just wanted to be at home. But as I hit the fourth mile I started to get into it. I lost myself in the podcast and found the miles flew by. I did need to stop at a petrol station for water but otherwise I felt pretty strong. I finished with 11 miles and feeling good. Mind games really do work 😉Strava tells me I last ran this route in January 2016 and depressingly I ran it a lot quicker (7:51min/mile average compared to my average of 8:17min/mile). But it is what it is. Progress to be made! I felt good at the end and that’s what counts in my eyes. Afterwards I attempted a selfie in the garden, which kind of didn’t work as the dogs wanted to get involved 😉It did make me laugh though!

Hope you had a nice weekend too 🙂

What did you get up to?

What’s your take-away of choice?

How do you get yourself motivated for a long run?

Superheroes everywhere

I do love a bit of fancy dress, you might have noticed. I don’t know why, maybe because it’s good fun and a laugh. So when it was announced (though not too widely it seems) that for Netley Abbey parkrun’s 5th birthday they’d be a superhero fancy dress I was all game.

My friend Mike decided to go as Robin and my friend Geoff decided to go as Batman. Well, I’d been Batgirl before so I hunted online and found that superhero females were somewhat limited. I could be Supergirl or Catwoman it seemed. Catwoman’s outfit looked far easier to run in (streamline if you like) so I went with that.My friend, Tom, was also joining me for parkrun on Saturday so I skipped setting the course up and picked him up at 8.15am. So I had a bit of a longer lie-in which was nice. Tom is a fairly new runner and had been doing Lee-On-Solent parkrun so I was chuffed to be able to show him Netley. Though Netley is a harder course than the lovely flat LoS!We got there to find not many people had embraced the superhero theme, which was a shame but kind of understandable as a few people had asked where the notice of fancy dress had been posted as they weren’t aware. *Sighs*

Photo credit: Sheryl James

But I didn’t mind. I love fancy dress regardless. I was going to run with Mike as we’re kind of around the same speed at the moment, though I’m perhaps a little faster. I didn’t want to go to speedy so it would work out well. All week I’ve been being very careful with my ankle and though it was feeling pretty much back to normal I didn’t want to risk it. I say this, but really I didn’t fancy running fast and the ankle was a good excuse 😉

Catwoman, Robin and Batman

Anyway as we lined up I lost Mike in the crowds. Tom stayed with me and was planning on “hanging on” for as long as he could. His PB is around 25 minutes.

As we started I just decided to run as I fancied, which turned out to be a fair clip in comparison to what I’d intended. My other friend, Mark, caught me up with his buggy and ran with me which was nice. He’s a lot faster so running my speed with his buggy was probably a walk in the park for him.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

It was nice running with Mark as we could chat and I could take my mind off the fact that I was running faster than I’d planned.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

The final lap I stepped it up a gear… I was thinking of all the cake at the end. As it was Netley’s birthday a cake sale had been organised (that info had been far more widely circulated…) and I was keen to get a few pieces.

I finished in 22:43 which I was pleased with considering how windy it was. I scanned my barcode pronto and then headed to grab some cake.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

I love this photo because it shows me in my happy place 🙂 The cake sale was to raise money for the defibrillator that we’re trying to buy, so I was only doing my good deed of the day really.I had a slice of Victoria Sponge (exceptionally tasty I must say. I had spotted this cake on Twitter beforehand and was glad to be able to grab a slice!), a white chocolate fudge slice thing and a white chocolate cookie. Pretty good haul! Though nothing like the five slices of the week before. The cake sale raised just over £366!! This is fantastic. Well done to all the bakers! The real superheroes of the day.

Tom did really well, coming in around 27 minutes which he was pleased with given how much more hilly Netley is compared to LoS and how windy it was. He showed me the bottom of his trainer afterwards; the sole was coming off! I told him off for wearing such old trainers, tsk!

After parkrun, showering and all that jazz I met up with my dad later in the day for a spot of Nando’s and a cinema trip to see Logan. I decided to change my usual whole chicken order at Nando’s and be slightly more healthy and opt for half a chicken and a Mediterranean salad.The salad was delicious. It had huge juicy olives, lots of sundried tomatoes and good chunks of feta. But I was a bit disappointed with the size of the chicken (I KNOW, I told you I’m greedy). My dad had gotten half a chicken with a side salad and a cob so we both felt we could share five wings between us 😉

And then we headed to the cinema…where I met a few more superhero friends.Logan was fantastic. Very violent but really different to the normal superhero films. I mean, I love X-Men anyway but this was very different.

The next day I met up with Robin Mike and we headed out for a long run together. I’ve become such a fan of running with other people again. Normally I’m like a lone wolf but having people to run with is a nice change, especially my long run. Running a long run with Mike is also good because as he’s slightly slower than me it means he keeps my pace in check.

I ran about half a mile to meet him and then we did a 5 mile out and back route through some fairly quiet country roads. The route was quite hilly though so a nice challenge at times. It was a great run and the miles flew by, as they always do when you run with someone else. I must do this more! Then I added a little bit more on at the end as I ran home to get to 12 miles (8:38min/miles overall pace).

Happily my ankle felt absolutely fine (as it did the day before) and I enjoyed a normal run without issues. Ahh what a novelty eh!

As long as I remain running injury-free I’ve decided to do the London Marathon. I have a Good For Age place and was wondering whether to defer until next year as it was so close to Tokyo. But as Tokyo went well and, ankles aside, my recovery has been good I’ve decided to go ahead and do it. I’ll keep a watchful eye on any niggles that crop up or feelings of over-training but otherwise I’d love to do it. Again, no time goal but just to tick another Marathon Major off the list and FINALLY get London done.

How was your weekend?

What superhero would you choose to be?

Does your parkrun ever try and raise money?

Christmas – family, food and running

I took a bit of a break over the Christmas holidays to chill and reset myself so I’m a bit behind on blog life but here we go anyway…

Christmas is really one of my favourite day’s of the entire year. There’s something about knowing that a huge number of people are doing something very similar to you on the same day. You feel part of something, a collective and a togetherness. I know not everyone celebrates Christmas, but a vast majority do and it’s nice to feel part of something bigger.

On Christmas Eve I volunteered at Netley parkrun rather than ran as my leg is still not 100% and I wanted to run the Christmas parkrun and knew I couldn’t do both. The weather was so cold and windy that after helping set the course up and then cheering on two laps of the three lap course I quickly headed back to the start/finish area and then sat in my car with the heating on full blast while watching to see when I was needed to help clear down. I was so cold and, it must be said, a bit grumpy. I don’t think it helped that when I stood complaining about being cold someone said to me, “oh you’ll be warm as soon as you start running”… except I wasn’t going to run! I can understand why they thought I would though as I was in my gym gear (with a coat) as I was going to head to the gym afterwards and get my endorphins that way.

But anyway, I stayed at my parents for Christmas Eve and then got up early the next morning and headed to parkrun once again. But this time with my dad in tow as he was going to do the Christmas parkrun too. It’s funny because we were both feeling a bit nervous about it; me with my shin and him with not having done a parkrun in a few months, and not having done the new hillier Netley either.

The weather was far better though, for which I was eternally grateful for. I’d gone with a Christmas-themed fancy dress and was grateful for the warmer temps.My dad had his new Netley parkrun t-shirt on as well, bless him (oh I also have to make a correction to a previous post where I’d said he lost 20% of his body weight – which wouldn’t have made any sense. He’s lost almost 2.5 stone, which is ten percent of his body weight… stupid Anna).

Two of my lovely friends, April and Jo, also came to Netley which was lovely. We “met” via Instagram and social media and though I’ve met April a few times in ‘real life’, I’ve never met Jo. So it was nice to see them both at such a festive occasion.

April and I ran together, with my friend Mike, but Jo was super fast (despite coming back from a niggle herself!) – she came first at the Southampton parkrun just the day before…naturally. But April and me tend to be around the same speed so it was nice to run and chat. My shin played ball and only niggled a tiny bit so I was quite happy.

But it did still feel hard. When you haven’t run consistently or for any great distances in a while it always feels pretty bloody awful regardless of pace!

The Netley Abbey Running club has festively set-up a table with Baileys shots for anyone who dared, and then set it up at the finish at the end. They were raising money for charity and quite a few people went for the shots!
All in all it was a very festive parkrun, with lots in fancy dress and a band playing. My dad did very well, getting a 5 minute PB with a time of 46:32 minutes, which even beats his Lee-On-Solent time (a vert flat course) and he wasn’t last! He was over the moon.

Then we packed up the course and headed back home to celebrate Christmas. I helped my dad with the lunch prep, we opened presents, ate chocolate (well, my granddad and I did, while my parents were very restrained).

Amongst other bits and bops I got some very nifty lifting shoes for Christmas.

They’re for the gym and specifically for lifting. They should help my form a bit more and basically keep me planted nicely on the ground and support to help me lift. I love the colour personally 😉

Then after cooking we got down to the main event…

I had a couple more plates of the main dinner…so tasty. I’m all about the stuffing and honey roasted parsnips. And the turkey of course 😉 I was in charge of pudding so I went for an M&S Chocolate and Orange Melting Middle Pudding (*cough* maybe two of them…because having too much is always better than not enough!). I actually didn’t realise it was chocolate orange until I was eating it and wondering why it was so zesty. I’m not a big chocolate orange fan so it wasn’t the “rock my world” situation I’d imagined. However it was obviously very good and though we didn’t eat both puddings we did crack into the second one.

Then we went for our annual walk down the beach. Unfortunately the weather had taken a turn for the worst and it was cold, wet and windy and we really just wanted to get it over with. It was nice to then get back home and curl up with a good movie. We watched It’s a Wonderful Life, which I’ve never seen before. I was a bit dubious about it thinking it was going to either be boring or ultra cheesy. I was pleasantly surprised at just how good it was and I was fully moved at the end, sobbing away at just how lovely it was. After another mini portion of leftovers and Christmas TV I was ready for bed! A really lovely Christmas 🙂

How was your Christmas?

What’s your favourite part of the Christmas dinner?

How I stay on track during Christmas

Christmas time can be the best and worst of times…In many ways, but specifically in terms of food.

As soon as the red Coca Cola lorry has rocked up and the John Lewis advert has hit our screens, we’re bombarded with a continuous onslaught of Christmasness. Personally I love it. The music, the decorations, the festive cheer and, of course, the food. You really can’t escape it. And it’s tough to keep on track of your health and fitness goals when you’re surrounded 24/7 by all those naughty but incredibly tasty Christmas treats. Mince pies, boxes of chocolate selections, biscuits, Christmas puddings, cheese, stollen, gingerbread, meals out, drinks out. It’s a bit of a minefield. It’s no wonder that as soon as January hits we’re all racing to the nearest gym armed with our shining New Year’s Resolutions promising not to eat a pig in blanket for a good while.

I do first want to preface this and stress that Christmas is certainly not a time for guilt, restriction and unhappiness over food. It should be enjoyed, but like all food, Christmas treats do need some moderation. I’m not trying to lose weight but I do want to keep myself in fairly good shape over December because 1) I’m going to Florida in January and want to enjoy eating LOTS of good food there while also remembering that 2) I’ve got a marathon to run in February. Hmmm. So here’s how I try and maintain a good balance:

I don’t use the “because it’s Christmas” excuse

It would be easy to just have an “F*** it” mentality when it comes to Christmas and just eat everything in sight. December is a long month and it’s easy to get into the habit through that month of eating rubbish and ignoring the consequences. Instead…

I know when to splurge and when to save

Over December there are so many events going on from parties, dinners, drinks out, Christmas markets… I try and save myself for those special occasions rather than a random lonely Friday night with a box of Celebrations. If I’ve got a Christmas dinner planned one week I want to go to it without feeling like I need to watch what I’m eating or refuse pudding because I’m “trying to be good”. Instead I’ll make more sensible and healthy choices in the days leading up to it and the day after and fully enjoy the ENTIRE meal without a care. If that means two puddings, then that means two puddings.

I had a second plate of puddings at my work Christmas dinner #winning

Eat the good stuff

I’m a big believer in not denying yourself any foods. However, there are definitely superior foods to be had during Christmas. There are treats I can eat any time of the year but mince pies, Christmas cake and things like that are generally only available around Christmas. And I don’t want some crappy mince pie because it’s just there, I want the quality one that I know I’ll enjoy and savour the most. If that means spending more money, then I will because food enjoyment is important to me.

Don’t buy it

If you are worried about over-indulging and eating ALLTHEFOODS, then don’t buy them. Rest assure you will find things to enjoy outside of your home but it’s all the harder to get to them which means you can’t easily eat them all the time. I don’t buy any Christmas food but that doesn’t mean I don’t get to eat it. I just enjoy it more when it’s not so easily available.

Keep focus on your goals

Christmas doesn’t have to change anything. Keep going to the gym or running etc. and stay in tune with the goals you had before the Christmas madness took over. Christmas is one day. There are still weeks before and after that you can carry on as normal.

But don’t punish yourself

You ate three mince pies in a row? You had two slices of Christmas cake? You went back for seconds/thirds/fourths at the buffet (please tell me we’ve all been there)? Don’t force yourself to “sweat it out” on the treadmill or bike. Don’t hate yourself over it. It’s one meal, one day, one indulgence. Just savour the memory, draw a line under it and move on. Life is far too short to torture yourself over a little bit of over-indulgence. Just don’t repeat that indulgence every single day of December.

Enjoy yourself

I love Christmas but I don’t go mad every day. I know for a fact on Christmas Day I will eat far too much food and will probably physically feel like utter crap the next day. But mentally I’ll have enjoyed myself and have no regrets. Food needn’t be a barrier or an anxiety during what should be a very happy and festive time. It should supplement the day but not be the focus. Enjoy the good food with your loved ones and relax.

How do you stay on track during Christmas?

What’s the one Christmas indulgence you just can’t say no to?