Reading Half training day and lots of cake

This weekend was quite busy with me being in both Reading and then Brighton. I was in Reading for the Reading Half Marathon Training Session.

I’ve never done an event like this so I was quite excited about what it would entail, even if it did mean missing my usual parkrun 😉 It was nice to mix things up a bit. On Saturday morning I had a quick breakfast and got myself going at 8.30am. Surprisingly for me I arrived bang on time  for 9.30am – in fact, earlier than other people! Normally I’m late!IMG_2597I finally got to meet the lovely Tess (who writes the great blog The Fitbits) who I know through social media. She’s just as lovely in person as she is online – and, I hope she doesn’t mind me saying this, she is TINY but full of energy!

The session involved lots of different bits. We got to meet the Reading Half Marathon Run Director, Judith Manson, who was lovely and friendly and got us all excited about the upcoming event (18th March – there are still places available FYI, as well as a competition to win a place HERE).

Then we had a workout with the Townsend Twins, Francesca and Chloe, who will be doing the warm-up before the half marathon on the day. IMG_2568They took us through a solid body-weight workout involving squats, single leg deadlifts and lunges etc. followed by a core-focused workout. They gave us options to make it easier or harder which was nice as there was a variety of skill level within the room. They had a great energy and kept us going.D7B7CB84-E4D8-4528-92E8-FCAB2829CE66Then Ali Galbraith took us through a discussion on pacing.IMG_2574He gave us some good tips on how to pace our ideal race. Some of his points included:

  • Having a good knowledge of the course so you would know when the tricky sections were like any hills so you wouldn’t panic when your pace decreased and where you could pick it up later.
  • Not going off too fast at the start (such an underrated tip – this is my biggest tip to anyone when doing a half or a full marathon. It is SO easy to get over-excited at the beginning and then burn out).
  • Practising your goal pace during your training.

And other top tips. Most of it was familiar to me but the tip that stood out was having a good knowledge of the course.D0B739E2-1DE7-4711-A245-3FE21DF0E41CFor some strange reason I don’t like to look at course maps too much because it’s almost like I don’t want to ruing the surprise for myself… which is ridiculous. Too often I have very little awareness of what’s coming up in the race. So I took this point away with me to change.IMG_2606Then we headed out for a 5k run. What I really liked about this (and the workout before) was that the warm-ups weren’t the old school static stretches. It was all dynamic movements to get the muscles warmed up, things like leg swings, squats and lunges. Far, far better! There’s no point stretching cold muscles.IMG_2593The run itself was good. We split off into groups due to everyone differing in paces. The group I was in had a pace of 8.30-9 minutes per mile which was led by Ali. The run was around the local area and took in the first mile of the Reading Half Marathon, so we could get a feel of what race day would be like (though I have run Reading twice before, but not the new course).IMG_2596Then we headed around the Madejski Stadium before heading back. It was a lovely crisp cold morning which we all agreed would be perfect weather for the race day. My calf felt a little uncomfortable but nothing major.Reading runThen we all met up back at the conference centre the event was held in and had our final session which was with Jim from the Berkshire Physio. They would be at the Half Marathon too – so if you need any advice or post-race massage, they’re your guys!IMG_2599Jim was super knowledgeable and pretty much everything he said he backed up with research. He talked about RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) as a treatment for an injury and also gave us some great stretches and strength exercises to keep us injury-free. One of the best exercises he gave us was called the “slump” and involved “neural flossing” of the Sciatic nerve. Instead of stretching your hamstrings with the standard static stretch, he recommended this exercise. Basically you sit on a table and slump your back to relax your spin with your chin to your chest, then you straight one leg and then bring it back down again. You continue to do this, and should feel things loosen from your leg to your back if you’re really tight. Apparently this is “flossing” your Sciatic nerve and helping to reduce tension and tightness. Obviously my explanation is a bit pants, so I recommend you google it if you’re interestedIMG_2570The event was well run and a good session. It was nice to meet fellow runners and to chat about training and things like that. I met the lovely Tamsyn from the blog Fat Girl to Ironman and Katie and Kate from the blog These Girls Do. So a fantastic bunch! I’m really looking forward to the Reading Half now 🙂

Then I hopped back in the car around 1.30pm and headed to Brighton. I hadn’t really planned lunch and didn’t really want to stop for anything proper as I just wanted to get there so I pushed on through. I did however eat four apples to keep me going. I’m not AnnaTheApple for no reason 😉

I got to Brighton and met up with my lovely friend, Charlotte. I was staying over for the night ready for a baby shower celebration the next day with my uni friends. I managed to persuade her into ordering an early dinner from Deliveroo as I was past the point of hunger and dangerously close to hanger. We ordered from a Turkish place called Almoosh Snack which we did the last time I stayed. I went for the mixed grill (which was HUGE but absolutely perfect for my hunger levels) and Charlotte ordered a large halloumi wrap and tabbouleh salad.IMG_2602My mixed grill was as I remembered it (lots of chicken wings, lamb mince koftas etc. on a bed of rice) but Charlotte’s was literally just slices of fried halloumi and her salad. It was definitely not a large wrap – and certainly missing the garlic sauce and pickles described on the menu! I rang up to complain and the man did apologise and said Deliveroo must have given us the starter version. He didn’t really offer a solution though… I’m still going to look into this further as it was a disappointing. Charlotte had to add a bagel to make it into an actual meal. Hmmm. Despite this, we had a lovely evening watching Hidden Figures (so good) and lots of First Dates (such addictive trashy TV).IMG_2609The next day I had a fabulous lie-in and then headed out into the bitter cold for a 4 mile run. I had intended on going a bit further (maybe 6 miles) but the calf was just not happy. I’d warmed it up and done some exercises before going out but it was no Bueno. It just felt so uncomfortable every time my foot hit the ground. IMG_2608The run location was lovely – the weather cold and windy but bright and the promenade was just full of fellow runners and a beautiful view of the sea. But I headed back and called it a day. 4 milesAfterwards there was a dull but non-specific ache in the calf. Hummm. Yeah I probably shouldn’t have run after running the day before. I never learn.

Our other friends soon arrived and we all headed to Metrodeco, a very quirky and friendly café in Brighton, for afternoon tea. We didn’t do any crazy crazy baby shower games but we did have a fun game where we couldn’t say “baby” and had pins that we’d try to win off of people when we noticed someone saying it. Very good fun! And probably safe to say I lost…IMG_2623The afternoon tea was amazing. There were open sandwiches of ham, salmon, creme cheese and brie. A large scotch egg sliced up, two mini fruit scones, a chocolate brownie, a mini red velvet cupcake and a selection of fruit tarts.IMG_2625We also had unlimited tea from a very large selection. I chose the Puer Tea, simply because I’d heard Victoria Beckham drank it because it was healthy (haha I’m ridiculous I know) but actually it was delicious and complimented all the sweet foods perfectly. It was like a refreshing and gentle black tea. We could change our teas whenever we fancied but I stuck with that one.IMG_2626The whole afternoon tea was so good! We could ask for more creme (clotted of course) and jam and the service was just super friendly and helpful. And, as usual, I played the human dustbin and helped where people needed it 😉 It’s become worryingly easy how my stomach can put this stuff away!

Then we played some more games (quizzes, no horrible baby shower games involving nappies!), the mother-to-be opened presents and then we headed off home. A lovely weekend with lovely people 🙂

Have you ever tried Puer tea?

Do you enjoy the games usually played at baby showers?

Are you running any half marathons this year?

New Year’s Day Swim

New Year’s Eve was pretty quiet this year. No big parties, getting drunk and waking up with a hangover.

Instead I had a lovely evening with the family playing games and eating good food. Sadly I missed parkrun on Saturday due to my calf. With Dubai being so close I don’t want to turn a niggle into an injury. I know I can run the marathon and that I have enough time to let the calf sort itself out IF I’m sensible. But if I try and push through the tightness and discomfort then it could become something serious and I won’t be able to run Dubai.

So I was sensible. I went to the gym instead (something I don’t do at the weekend) and spent some quality time on the elliptical machine. The weather was fairly awful over the weekend with windy showers so actually I wasn’t too sad to miss a cold and blustery run. I watched The Sinner and got in some solid cardio. Of course nothing beats parkrun in terms of those warm, fuzzy feelings and the social elements of it but with Dubai creeping closer and the motivation for the gym at its best during the morning, parkrun had to be missed.

I knew I wouldn’t be doing the double parkrun on New Year’s Day either, as much as I’d loved to have gone. I was quite down about it but decided instead of moping I’d do something completely different to take my mind off of it. As I live near the Solent I’d often heard about people taking a dip in the sea on New Year’s Day. I decided I’d give it a go! I’m not really a swimmer – I can swim, I just don’t enjoy it (it’s such a faff, especially with my hair and I don’t get any sort of runner ‘s high-like feeling from it) and I really am not a fan of swimming in the sea. But it would be a challenge and an experience.

Initially I thought I’d just go down to the beach and do it on my own – or with a mini support crew that is my parents and granddad. But my mum mentioned that the Lifeboat people (GAFIRS) do an organised event at Stokes Bay every year. That sounded far better. The thought of doing it on my own sounded horrific, but with a bunch of other people it sounded…fun? All I had to do was register online and show up at 11.45am.

This was ideal as it meant I could go to the gym in the morning to do some cross-training beforehand (effectively doing what I would be doing if I had gone to parkrun) and then eat breakfast and go to the beach. Luckily Stokes Bay is close so it wasn’t a trek to get there.Unfortunately it was tipping it down!IMG_2403I’d decided to keep it simple and wear my running shorts and a sports bra as I knew wearing anything more would only make things worse with the cold water. Basically, wearing less is better! Though when we arrived and I spotted lots of people wearing fancy dress.
IMG_2402I was quite envious of the people wearing onesies or who were more covered up – they looked far warmer. Of course I had my layers on beforehand thankfully and my dad ready to hold on to them when I went it. I had my flipflops on (the best I could do at such short notice) and a thick towel in a bag ready with some dry clothes as well to put on. I was very well prepared.IMG_2411My mum and granddad found a good spot on the side of the beach with the other spectators. My granddad made me laugh later when he said my mum was “lethal” with her umbrella. She’s quite short and I don’t think she was quite aware of how many people she was poking…The GAFIRs had put on a great welcome for everyone with hot drinks, cakes, snacks and even a steaming buffet of chili! As someone who lives near the sea I fully appreciate the work these guys do. The lifeboats and the coastguard must work in some terrible conditions at times. So this event is fantastic at helping raise money for their charity.IMG_2404.jpgAt 11:50 they told us to get ready and stand on the slipway. There were almost 400 people that were going to be entering the water so things needed to be fairly well organised. There were lots of spectators huddled under umbrellas and photographers taking our photo.IMG_2405It was funny because I got my dad to take a quick photo on the slipway in my “swimming gear” and suddenly about four photographers started taking my photo too… You can see my dad in the background looking a bit awkward (and slightly Russian…) haha!
IMG_2466Not my best look it must be said!IMG_2465But anyway, we all stripped down to our gear and got ready on the slipway. My feet by this point were freezing. I’d been in my flipflops from the beginning and the cold rain had really chilled them to the bone. We stood like penguins together, all shivering and honestly I would have cuddled up to anyone I could at that point I was so cold. Big burly men were looking rather appealing! The organiser on the megaphone told us it would be eight minutes before we’d be released. WHAT. There was a huge collective groan from everyone as we realised we’d be standing there in the cold for a while. Others around me were dressed in a wetsuits (cheating really), swimsuits, trunks, fancy dress and everything in between. Two lovely ladies next to me said their children had signed them up to do it which made me laugh.

What felt like an eternity later we were told “five minutes to go”. At this point I was hopping up and down and rubbing my arms furiously to try and not die (well, that’s what it seemed like it anyway). It’s funny because the whole set-up felt a bit like a pre-race bit. The excitement, nerves, the huddles of people…OK half-naked people but people with intentions anyway! The only thing was I knew in 10 minutes time I wouldn’t be warmer, as I would be in race, I would be very much colder.

FINALLY we counted down 10 seconds and then the ribbon was lifted (by the Mayor of Gosport no less – no she wasn’t going in) and we all stumbled/ran/walked into the water. I mean, it was cold but it wasn’t like Jack floating in the ocean cold. In fact, the water was warmer, so they said, than the temperature outside. But it was still bloody freezing. The shock of it as it hit your skin was really quite something.IMG_2423Everyone was screaming, splashing and laughing and it was rather exhilarating. I made sure to fully plunge myself in (though not my head; they warned us from doing this because we might go into shock!). I felt my flipflops slip off my feet as I stepped forward, but there was no way I was going back for them. And then I quickly got myself out of there. To climb the pebbly shore back to the slipway was SO painful. My feet were in agony, they were so cold.

Bless my dad he practically ran over to me and then quickly wrapped the towel around me (though in his haste he did manage to drop my clean, dry clothes into the puddles then step on them *sighs*). We then huddled in the doorway to the lifeboat centre while I got a bit warmer. Everyone around us was in the same boat (excuse the pun): freezing, a bit in shock but, as I was, very much happy. It was a fantastic experience!IMG_2408The only bad part was my walk back to the car, which really wasn’t far away but my feet were now in agony. My big toes had gone numb and it was just awful. My mum tried to guide me back but she was walking too quickly (I say “quickly” but really we were crawling along) and she had to slow down further for me. My granddad had gone ahead to warm up the car – the invalid that I was now!IMG_2409It might have been nice to have hung around a bit and chatted to the other people but it was just so cold and the rain was still coming down so we thought it best to head off. I was very grateful for the warm car – though really it was only my feet that were still frozen. The rest of me felt quite invigorated. My dad gave me his fluffy hat to put my feet in, bless him.

I went straight for a hot shower after getting home. This sounds like a broken record now, but the pain of the hot water on my feet was almost worse! The bottom of my toes were tingling awfully. Would I do it again? Absolutely! It was such a thrill and full of comradery with the other people. But next time I would DEFINITELY wear better shoes – like those wetsuit style ones. They’d be far better! I would also probably wear fancy dress because, well, it’s a bit more a laugh then! 😉

The rest of the day, after finally getting warm and my feet feeling normal again, we spent dog walking, playing games and enjoying a delicious chicken roast dinner.IMG_2412Obviously it would have been lovely to have started the year with a run but the swim was fantastic. Plus my calf is feeling far better so I’m not stressed 🙂

Have you ever done a New Year’s Day swim?

Do you like swimming in the sea?

Did you do the double parkrun?

Double parkrun and Christmas

Another Christmas done! This year felt very quick indeed. For the first time in MANY years I’m back at work during the three days between Christmas and New Year so it hasn’t really felt like a proper Christmas at all. But hey ho, such is life when you need to take a chunk of holiday in January!

The weekend before Christmas was a bit weird. It felt odd having such a big lead-up to the day. I guess I’ve gotten used to the past couple of years where you finish work on the Friday and then it’s Christmas very soon after. Did anyone else feel this? Or maybe it was just more noticeable to me because I would be back at work on the Wednesday.

On Saturday I decided instead of going to the Netley parkrun or anywhere further afield I would go to Lee-On-Solent instead. This meant I could also run there and back and get a solid 10 miles in and then I wouldn’t have to worry Sunday. Not only that but I’d be running on Monday for the Christmas parkrun. My calves have weirdly felt very tight so I didn’t want to push things. On that note, it’s weird because they started feeling tight after I changed my trainers a week or so before the marathon (I went from Adidas Boost Supernova Sequences to ASICS Gel Exalts) and my calves felt TERRIBLE. So I tried to buy new Supernovas ASAP but as I’m an idiot I’d already thrown away the older trainers so had to continue using the ASICS until the new ones arrive and this just made my calves feel worse.IMG_2109During my run to parkrun they still felt tight and the left one uncomfortably so. As my legs were still tired from the marathon I decided not to push parkrun. I turned up to Lee and saw so many people wearing festive fancy dress… ahh damn!IMG_2086I love fancy dress and happily would have joined in (though saying that, I’d have had to have run there and back so maybe it was for the best…). My friend Rebecca had made a fantastic effort as a Christmas pudding – she looked amazing! IMG_2085There was also a band playing festive tunes which was lovely. Lee splitsMy time was 22:18. (for my 158th parkrun!). I then headed off home soon after. On my run home I spotted confetti on the floor in lovely shades of pink and purple. As I passed it by I briefly thought “ahh that matches my running gear” and as I got to the top of the road I decided it was too good an opportunity to miss so turned around and went back to do a very “Insta-worthy” photo – one for the ‘gram as all the kids are saying 😉IMG_2115The rest of the day was spent sorting stuff out for Christmas (food, tidying, presents, etc.). My dad had braved the food shops with my grandad (who was down from Stoke) so I’d missed that joyous job (ha!).

On Sunday I had contemplated another run but with my calves not feeling right at all I decided a day of rest was best. I cursed myself for writing a bloody blog post on not being injured. Honestly, I do know how to tempt fate don’t I? Never, EVER again will I be so arrogant to assume I’m out of the runner god’s sniper sight.IMG_2134Instead I went out with my family to Romsey where we’d be reliably informed (by Facebook no less…) that there would be a Christmas market. Well, I assure you it was not a Christmas market. It was just a market and really wouldn’t have been out of place any day of the year. But hey ho. There was a gin stand (my mother was happy!), pies, meat, vegetables, bread and cakes. Not bad but not Christmassy. We had a nice walk round Romsey, which is a very quaint English town and then headed home for an evening watching films (finally saw Sully, brilliant!) while doing a jigsaws puzzle. Rock and, indeed, roll.IMG_2140Christmas morning I was off to Netley for the annual Christmas parkrun. My dad was going to come but as the turkey had still been frozen the day before it meant he needed to attend to it that morning (usually my parents cook the turkey overnight). To be fair, it was probably for the best as the weather at Queen Victoria Country Park was AWFUL.IMG_2146I headed down early to help set-up and we all miserably set a “skeleton” course out (which basically means we didn’t do all the flags and cones because the majority of people coming that day would have come before so would know where to go and it would mean we could pack up quicker to go home at the end).IMG_2147The wind was blowing an absolute gale. As we were on the winter course it meant that we were right next to the water’s edge and it was so cold and wild. I had come dressed in my elf outfit and was quite thankful for the extra layer of wool and hat!IMG_2153The wind along the front was AWFUL and I felt so unfit struggling against it, especially going up the hill. But by mile two I managed to feel a bit more “with it”. My left calf was really not happy though. Bugger. It was painful, just felt very stiff and tight. Not right at all. Hmmm, time to have a bit of rest then! Netley splits

I finished parkrun in 23:35 which wasn’t too shabby at all. Christmas parkrun in my view is never one to blast – it’s a good festive run. IMG_2165It was rather muddy though!IMG_2152There was a table of snacks and Bailey shots set up, people dressed up and Christmas music. It was good fun.

IMG_2171Thanks Beth for the photo!

My friend Nick, who is part of the set-up crew, came first (he’s very speedy) and we joked that he’d gotten “Christmas number one”. Hilariously he replied that it seemed fitting as Ed Sheeran, a fellow ginger, had also gotten the Christmas number one. Hehe.IMG_2161We packed up quickly and I headed off home ready to start Christmas properly! My sister and Mike were already there so I quickly got showered and sorted ready to open presents with everyone. We’re the type of family who opens presents first. It’s all very chaotic and crazy with wrapping paper everywhere, my mum offering cups of tea or bucks fizz, a strong delicious smell of turkey, the dogs trying to eat everything and everyone trying to get to grips with who’s got what from whom. I love Christmas with my family and wouldn’t change a thing!

To add to the stress my dad and I thought it would be a great idea to make a pudding this year. As both him and my mum are still doing Slimming World (and doing very well!) he decided the Slimming World Chocolate Log would be perfect (amongst all the other puddings of course). So we quickly got to work on that. Obviously though, as is Apple Family standard, we were missing self-raising flour (why on earth would you check these things beforehand right?). Luckily we had normal flour and baking powder so we went with that!

And as usual we didn’t read the instructions properly to realise that once it comes out of the oven you need to roll it and then let it cool. Well, we just left it to cool flat. IMG_2173So when it came to adding the filling and trying to roll it stone cold…well, it didn’t quite work.IMG_2174That said, it did hold its shape and actually tasted very nice! Not really my sort of thing it must be said as I’m not a huge fan of chocolate and fruit together but it was a nice addition to the other puddings I had 😉Christmas dinnerWe had a prawn starter (basically just prawns with either a sweet chili dip or a Marie Rose dip, delicious!), followed by turkey with all the trimmings and then a slice of the chocolate log… and maybe some trifle and lemon tart as well 😉

Then we played an awesome but very simple game called Bottle Top.IMG_2195You basically have to stack wooden coins on top of a bottle. The aim is to lose all your coins and not knock any coins off, but you can’t go higher than nine levels. It’s very tense!

The rest of the day was spent enjoying time with the family, playing with my puzzle (I’m fully addicted and almost finished my LOTR-themed puzzle) and eating more food. I had a lovely evening snack of Christmas cake (from Betty’s tea shop in Yorkshire!) and stollen.IMG_2201Heavenly! We did manage our annual Christmas walk down the beach with the dogs but it was SO windy and wild it was very much “heads down, go go go” kind of walk. Only a handful of other dog walkers seemed to brave the weather like us. It was good to get out though and the dogs needed the run.

A successful Christmas indeed.

How was your Christmas?

What did you have for Christmas dinner?

What are your family traditions?

My trip to Llandudno and a Christmas party

Life lately has been so good. I know I’m probably a broken record on this front but I’m very happy right now. Running is going well. I’m loving my job. I have a solid group of friends who continually make me smile every day. Life is indeed good.

I’ve just got back from Llandudno, seeing my grandparents, and instead of the usual “oh god it’s back to work” I was actually quite happy to go back. Not necessarily as happy about the super early morning, but you can’t win them all.IMG_1646Spending the four-ish days in Llandudno was lovely. Unfortunately my grandad wasn’t his usual energetic and fighting fit self due to an ongoing cough he couldn’t shift, but it was nice to be there anyway. Though he did go on an epic 5.4 mile walk with my dad around the Great Orme while I was out doing my long run on the Monday morning. I mean, as you do when you’re almost 84 right??My 15 mile long run was great. It was very icy and frosty but it was nice to get out in some different scenery. To make life easier I used a 5.6 mile loop that my grandparents had marked out for me (on proper maps, with elevation charts and everything!). This was handy because it meant if the roads were too dangerous I wasn’t going to be too far away from their house to stop.Llandudno runIt also felt a bit easier in my head mentally to think I was doing two-three loops rather than 15 miles. It was a great route because it went from one coast to the other, so you got to the see the sea twice which is always a win in my book.IMG_1697I didn’t have any choice but to wear my shorts as I hadn’t packed any leggings with me (I live in Anna La La Land where I don’t consider any negative prospects ahead, just everything running smoothly and the sun perpetually shining). But actually my legs were fine. It was my the tops of my ears and my fingers that suffered. I was wearing my Nike gloves and they’re still quite thin so my hands got really cold. I ended up pulling my sleeves down over them too. I made sure to  stop a couple of times to take some photos – it was so beautiful (with or without snow, really) that I had to.
Snowy LlandudnoThe first lap was good because I was new to the route and had to double-check my carefully written out paper instructions to ensure I was going to the right way, which helped pass the time. The second lap I just zoned out as I knew where to go. When it came to finishing the second lap I was at over 11 miles I didn’t fancy doing another lap as it would make my long run too far (almost 17 miles) and I really couldn’t be bothered. Instead I started the third lap but turned around when I hit the golf club, which we’d walked to the day before and I knew was 2 miles, so there and back would get me to my 15 miles. Perfect.
15 milesThe rest of the time in North Wales was good old fashioned family time. Lots of walking, quality quiz time (I love a quiz) and good food. My grandparents eat really healthily and light so the only indulgences were when we ate out for food (we had an Indian and a Christmas meal) or when I bought a chocolate drenched waffle at the Christmas market…IMG_1802Some thing have to be done. We also did a fun walk around Llandudno to find all the different Alice in Wonderland statues (called the “Alice Trail”). I love stuff like this.IMG_1799Then I was back at work on the Thursday, just in time for our Christmas do. It was at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which was rather fancy and meant I could put on a sparkly dress.IMG_1868The event only cost £5 and we got a drink on arrival, half a bottle of wine, two drinks tokens and a three course meal. I mean, that’s not too shabby at all! I got myself all glamorous (well, as glam as I can really) and enjoyed a fun evening of food and dancing. IMG_1871I did drink but not to excess as I had work the next day (and not to mention a marathon the following weekend). I’m actually not a huge drinker. I don’t mind getting a bit tiddly but I hate the feeling of wanting to be sick or the room spinning, which inevitably happens after drinking too much. The dinner was great (even more so because my friend and I got to split someone else’s meals between us as they hadn’t shown up). And the pudding was a pudding BAR. I will unashamedly say I returned after my first selection for more. I must have eaten about nine different selections (tiffin, rocky road, mince pie shortbread (!), blondies…). I mean, to be fair they were quite small.Historic Dockyard Christmas partyAnyway it was a really fun evening. It was nice to have a Christmas party with people who were around my own age. However, it did make for getting up on the Friday morning somewhat tricky. Luckily though everyone who’d been just as foolish as me not to take a day off or a half-day was in the same boat, so I wasn’t alone in my grogginess at work!

I’m working most of Christmas (except the Bank Holidays) but I don’t really mind as everyone is so jolly and festive. Plus I have a holiday to Dubai in January to look forward to. I’ll have my Portsmouth Coastal Marathon recap coming soon! Spoiler: I finished and I’m not injured 😀

Did you have a work Christmas party?

Do you run in the snow?

Do you cope well with being hungover?

Long run Sunday with the Victory 5 Mile

After my rather calorific Saturday in London, I felt fairly well-fuelled for my long run on Sunday. I didn’t fancy dinner and settled instead for some fruit (because #health) and a hot chocolate.

I was signed up to do the Victory 5 Mile race, which is run by the City of Portsmouth AC and it part of the Hampshire Road Race League. As such it’s quite a popular one for the local running clubs, Hedge End included. When I went to sign up I found it was sold out but luckily (for me) I managed to acquire a place from someone who could no longer run it (not lucky for him though of course). I’ve been finding going out for a long run on my own quite dull so having a race as part of a long run really helps.

In terms of convenience, the race actually takes place on the grounds of where I work so wasn’t too far away. In terms of excitement, this meant it was going to be a fairly dull race as I regularly run around that area. But the company of other runners would be nice and it was flat. I found that I could get 11 miles beforehand if I ran there, totaling up my long run to 16 miles for the day. Ideal. Happily as well the race didn’t start until 11am so this meant I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn.

In fact I had a rather leisurely wake-up time of 8.15am, walked Alfie and then headed out at 9am. The route was thankfully the same route I drive in order to get to work, so I couldn’t get lost. Hurrah! The weather wasn’t as cold as it has been so I was grateful for that too.My run was quite uneventful but it did feel somewhat sluggish. I guess this is to be expected due to poor nutrition the day before and a very fast parkrun. Mentally though it was OK because I knew I just needed to get to the race. Having a destination rather than just a loop made things tick by quite nicely. It was also a strange experience running to work. I had a couple of pain points on the route where I struggled to find the right way to go. Not because I was lost but because where you can drive and where you can run/walk can be different in certain areas. At one point I found myself stuck at a roundabout as I couldn’t get to the turning I needed to due to barriers… I headed off in one direction to find that it wasn’t going to bring me out where I thought and so had to turn around and head back to find another route. Eventually though I found my way through.11 milesI arrived at Lakeside, where the race was located, with enough time to pick up my bib (annoyingly my name was “Anne” not “Anna” for some reason…) and then chat to some fellow Hedgies and do a brief warm-up.I didn’t really need the warm-up but it was good to keep warm and chat to my friends.Then we lined up ready to go. I positioned myself further back than I would have had I been racing and then set off with the klaxon. Ooof my legs felt tired and heavy. Not a great start.
I took things nice and easy and listened to my podcast on my Aftershokz headphones to keep myself amused but it really was a slog. By mile two the thought of stopping was really strong in my mind. This is quite rare for me to want to stop, especially in a race where I’m not racing. It just felt like so much effort.
Victory 5 courseI was glad that the course was two loops because I’m not sure I could have managed three loops… just the thought of going round and round the lake was exhausting to me.

Photo Credit: Mike Gilmore

I found myself running a similar pace to a lady and we were in line as we ran. She told me to run ahead and catch my teammate up who we could see in front. But I politely told her I was OK. I wondered if she found it annoying me running alongside her? I didn’t want to increase my pace but I think she slightly decreased hers and I gradually stretched out in front (though I never caught my teammate).

Victory 5Photo Credit: Solent Sports Photography

I was really counting down the miles by the end and was grateful to see the end in sight. As I run this route so often I knew exactly how far we had to go. I managed to increase my pace somewhat and catch up with another Hedgie. Her partner was cheering her on with her adorable pug and the pug, Blue, was trying desperately to chase after her and barking away. It was very sweet.As we came round the final bend I saw my dad stood on a hill cheering away. As I ran there I needed to be picked up and it was nice that he’d arrived a bit early so he could see me finish. We’d agreed he wouldn’t come and support the entire race as he had a few jobs to do and it was going to be a slow plod for me, so not exactly a crucial one needing his support. That said though, I was grateful for his cheers at the end!
Victory 5 splitsI finish in 40:09, well away from my PB of course but a nice speedy few miles at the end of a long run. I quickly grabbed my medal, the water and we popped into the onsite Starbucks so I could grab a hot coffee before we headed home. I couldn’t hang around as I had a Christmas lunch to get to with my friends and had a very small window to get home and ready!As I headed home I didn’t feel “right”. I felt sluggish and just a bit off. My dad had been suffering from a bad cold and I wondered if I’d suddenly caught it too… That would be fairly typical. No injuries but taken down by an illness instead! I felt exhausted and just not great – and the run hadn’t felt my best either.

But anyway, I got home, showered and dressed and managed to get to the Christmas lunch for 1.30pm where I was in desperate need of a solid refuel. And thankfully I was at the right place 😉

We were at the King’s Head in Wickham which was lovely. I had the ham hock to start, followed by traditional turkey dinner (albeit with a limited portion of vegetables it must be said) and finished with cheesecake.I always find at Christmas meals that the puddings tend to be a bit lame. I’m not a fan of Christmas puddings at all and there’s usually a crème brûlée on the menu, of which I also don’t like. Occasionally you might get a rogue brownie but invariably it’s cheesecake which is alright but not my favourite. Ah well, it was tasty nonetheless.

Then we played some fun games, such as the celebrity on a post-it note stuck to your forehead game (I’m sure there’s a succinct name for it…) and Pictionary. I forgot how competitive I can get though. I get very into it and can be quite, well, let’s say over-enthusiastic about it.

The meal and company was just the ticket for making me feel better. Strangely enough after a solid night’s sleep that evening I felt absolutely fine the next day. I’m wondering if it was just the mileage having an effect on me and the fact that I ate pretty poorly the day before. Who knows! Touch wood, I feel fine right now.

One more long run before the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon… I’m off to Wales on Friday to visit my grandparents. The scenery will be far more exciting there and it’ll be lovely to relax and spend time with my family.

Have you ever run to a race before?

What’s your favourite part of a Christmas dinner?

What would be your pudding of choice, festive or otherwise?