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?

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.**

A wobbly parkrun and my divorce party

Bank holiday weekends are such a gift. That one extra day just makes it seem to last forever.

I definitely needed it after a very poor night sleep on Friday. I was woken up at 2am by some bad hay fever, so took an antihistamine and eventually feel back asleep. Then at 4am there was a thunderstorm. Alfie hates thunder and lightning; he gets very scared and freaks out. For whatever reason he decided that sitting on my head would be the safest place for him. And then intermittently barking. It seemed to go on forever, so we were awake for quite a while.

When my alarm went off at 7am I felt like I’d barely slept. I’m normally the type of person who gets up straight away with their alarm, but it was the first time in ages where I desperately wanted to snooze. But parkrun waits for no one!

I didn’t feel particularly great or 100% when I got to Netley. I’d felt very sick the day before for some reason so wondered if that, with lack of sleep, just made me feel rubbish. The weather was very oppressive as well, humid and close. Anyway, I helped set-up and decided today was not the day to push it.As soon as I started running I knew it was going to be a bad one. I was running far slower than normal and yet the effort level seemed the same. People who I normally run with or ahead of were overtaking me and I just couldn’t seem to catch up. I would occasionally surge forward but then found this shattered me.

I also didn’t feel right in that I felt hazy and foggy and a couple of times lost my footing. It felt really quite awful. Several times I wondered if I should drop-out of walk. But being the stubborn idiot I am I just pushed on, trying to get to the finish-line as quickly as I could.As I got closer to the finish I started getting more and more foggy and when I finished and stopped running I completely lost my bearings and stumbled to the floor. I can’t tell you how embarrassing this was. I just suddenly felt so dizzy and out of it. Luckily someone helped me and got me some water. I was very grateful, though hugely mortified. A lot of other people were also feeling the humid and oppressive weather conditions too so I didn’t look like a complete loon. I should have just stopped when I started feeling off.I somehow managed 23:07, but it felt so ridiculously hard. I helped clear up and then had a hot drink at the cafe. I still felt quite hazy so sitting and taking a moment helped. I had quite a busy day ahead so needed to have my shizz together!I got back home and was so busy sorting stuff I wasn’t able to focus on feeling under the weather, which I actually think helped (tho I had a moment in the shower where I found myself exhausted and wondering if I should just go back to bed…). I had my divorce party planned for 1pm at my friend’s house and needed to get myself together. And as I was in charge of the food, I needed to have that together too.

The day before I’d made a beef chilli (I used this Jamie Oliver recipe and slow cooked pieces of beef shin for over five hours and it smelt amaaaaazing).I was also planning on making some guacamole and had lots of snacks to take too. After rushing around like a mad thing I eventually made it to my friend’s house. She’d made the most fantastic cake! Red velvet…divine!We got the food prepared and spread on the table. I made guacamole using avocados mashed with some spices and low fat Greek yogurt and lime juice – delicious! And we were ready to go.The reason for the party was just to have a fun little get-together to take light of the fact that I’m now officially divorced (well, I have been for a few months now but haven’t really been that free at the weekend to do something like this). Yes being divorced sucks (oh the failure I am, how sad and pathetic my life is, woe is me… blah blah blah) but I’m a half glass full kind of person and wanted to just have a bit of fun with it. You can’t sit in a dark corner and be sad about life events that happen, you just gotta pick yourself up and try and move forward. I think I’ve consistently tried to do that and Saturday was just a way to enjoy myself with cake. My marriage wasn’t a mistake and I don’t regret it, it just had a fixed time limit and that’s that!To be honest, I just wanted a reason to eat lots of food and have cake 😉 I made a divorce playlist (think N*Sync ‘Bye Bye Bye’ and Destiny’s Child ‘Independent Woman’) and a love/hate themed quiz (Round 1: Connect the famous exes…to Round 4: Connect the song with the singer – again themed as breakup songs). It was good fun. I obviously ate far too much (two slices of cake and copious amounts of chilli and dip).Now I know people hate this word…but the cake was so moist! It was very tasty. Louise, my amazing baking friend, did herself proud!

As Lou and Tom, the hosts, had a wedding party to get to that evening we all vacated and reconvened later for, er, more food and some drinks at Portsolent. Some of the friends hadn’t eaten (or eaten as much as me) whereas I, unsurprisingly, wasn’t that hungry but I still fancied going out. We went to Wildwood and I ordered the lightest thing I could find. Just a “superfood salad”. On any other occasion it wouldn’t have been enough, but it was just perfect.I also enjoyed a nice refreshing Sol beer and then Bud Light at the next bar (I love Bud Light!). It was a great evening of chatting, laughing and generally just chilling out. I don’t tend to do much drinking but it was a nice change.

I’ll leave my weekend recap there!

What’s your favourite cake? I keep changing mine, from carrot cake to red velvet to lemon…

Have you ever been to a divorce party? It’s quite an obscure thing, granted!

Have you ever felt a bit dizzy or odd at parkrun/running?

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?

Currently – April

I feel like I still have so much to catch you guys up with. Things have been a bit mental round here and I’m trying to get my ducks in order left right and centre. So without further ado, here are some things that I’ve been currently loving.

The Boston App: My friend, Andy, from the running club who’s just recently run Boston (he’s SUPER fast) sent me a Tweet letting me know that I was a tiny bit famous:That’s me on the app screen for the 2017 race! OK granted you can’t really tell as you can’t see my face, but you can see my running club vest! Clearly the organisers thought that my red, white and blue vest was ideal. And check me out running to the tangents 😉

Becoming more adult: I Facetimed my dad to work out how to use my new tin opener… OK so hear me out before further judgement ensues.I’m used to tin openers that go alongside the vertical sides of a tin, whereas this contraption sits on top. I couldn’t get my head to work it out. I mean I know it’s simple. I just couldn’t connect those simple dots. So I Facetimed my dad because, well, he solves everything. He explained in very simple, Anna-coherent terms how to use it and hey presto! I got it to open my tin of salmon.

I mean, know it’s totally obvious now. Like one of those weird eye puzzles that you look at for ages trying to see the horse but you can’t see it until you blur your eyes and then it’s like it never left the page. OK, weird analogy. Unfortunately this tin opener leaves a very sharp edge. You win some, you lose some.

Weird snacking: No I’m not pregnant (good Lord), but I do love these gherkins to randomly snack on.They remind me of being in America with their pickles they serve with sandwiches and burgers. It’s weird, but it’s good.

Healthy treats: I heard about this “ice cream” on social media (can’t remember where now if I’m honest). As you’re probably already aware, I’m a volume eater so buying the real stuff (i.e. Ben & Jerrys,  my one true love) would be problematic for me as it’s likely I’d eat the whole tub. At an excess of 1,000 calories for some of them, that’s a bit much for an evening treat! I have minimal self-control and being fully aware of this I will rarely buy any. I admire people who can take a scoop and enjoy it for what it is, but for me I always enjoy things in larger portions. It’s just the way I am. So anyway, Frill is not technically ice cream but it’s very similar.It’s a frozen smoothie made up of dates and fruit and cocoa powder and some other bits and bobs (but actually no nasty-looking chemically things from what I can tell). The whole tub is 350 calories and a whole lot less sugar. Considering normal ice cream portions can be around that for just two scoops, this is pretty damn good! And it’s surprisingly dense.

I won’t lie, I did indeed eat an entire tub one evening because I’m a fricking independent woman and can do what I the hell I want (in my PJs watching crappy TV. Yes, Beyonce, I’m truly living the dream). They have a green and a red version. The red is a berry flavour and the green is a green smoothie flavour, of which the mind can only boggle whether that would actually taste nice. But there we go, healthier ice cream for greedy people like me 😉

New Nike trainers: The lovely guys from MilletSports let me choose some Nike trainers and like a small child in a sweet shop (who am I kidding, like myself in a sweet shop) I scrolled through so many beautiful looking pairs before I settled on some black and white Nike Frees.Just casually taking a selfie at the gym in my new Nikes with my London Marathon finisher tee as you do 😉They’re super comfy. I mean like bouncability is a strong 10/10. Though technically speaking they are running shoes, I’m reluctant to run in them as I’m so injury-prone and particular about running trainers but for the gym and everyday life, they are PERFECT.They literally fit like a glove. Ahh I do love Nikes.

PureGym antics: I love my gym. I truly do. It’s super close (8 minutes drive), open 24/7, huge with lots of machines and equipment (four squat racks!) and very cheap. The clientele never cease to amaze me as well. You do get some funny characters, especially at 5.30am. The guy in the photo below was doing some crazy things on the pull-up bar that just blew my mind. He’d “superset” his acrobatics with dumbbell curls. As you do.It was amusing to watch I must say. Never a dull day.

London Marathon: I love all the stats they give you. A plethora of facts and figures to geek out over. This one was my most proud:I held out strong on the final stretch it seems! 🙂 Weirdly I was actually passed and was overtaken for the first 35k the exact same number. Not sure how that works!

What’s a weird food you like to snack on?

What’s your favourite brand?

What’s your take on healthier treats?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Nike trainers by MilletSports for free in exchange for a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**