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?

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?

Catch Up

I woke up on Monday morning feeling every minute of the Tough Mudder I did on Sunday.

A mixture of sunburn, scratches all over my legs, bruises everywhere and the general ache of my muscles made me switch my usual gym alarm (4:57am – yes it’s so exact, I value those three minutes) to a more leisurely time of 7am. I didn’t even have to walk Alfie as he’s currently at my parent’s so it was a very gentle and lazy morning for me. I normally always at least have to walk Alfie so it was odd getting to work having walked only about 1,000 steps.

To be honest though, my body needed the rest! Coming into work on Monday, I was somewhat relieved to find George in a similar state of achy sunburnt tiredness. It was quite nice having someone at work who “got it” as normally I come in after a long run or race and no one cares or remotely understands really (not to their fault, I know I’m the minority here).

My run on Tuesday night was like running through thick mud. I felt so heavy and my legs were status “No Beuno”. I managed to slog through four miles though and felt the better for it despite the grind.It is nice though starting a run and thinking “if I feel good I’ll run six miles…” and then downgrading to four just because I can.Because I’m not training for anything or following any sort of plan. It’s just so nice. I have a couple of races in the plan and plans for the autumn but right of this minute I’m just happily winging whatever I fancy. And it feels gooood. Well, for now it does. I can already feel myself getting excited about getting back into more goal-focused training in a month or so.

In general life, things are pretty calm. I’m currently house-sitting for my parents. It’s a bit weird being back at home without my parents. I took a suitcase of clothes and some food with me to keep me going for the week (staples like apples, supplies to make work lunches, hot chocolate, etc.).

Handily though they have a second freezer in the garage and it’s well stocked with some recent MuscleFood items. I tend to buy from Muscle Food when they have a good deal going on but I don’t have the space in my freezer so my parents graciously allow me space in theirs. So I’ll be enjoying lots of meatballs, steak and chicken burgers!

The reason I’m house sitting is because my parents have three dogs and they’ve been looking after another dog too, also called Alfie (though I refer to him as Fake Alfie). And obviously the real Alfie is there too… so five dogs.

I already failed at the first hurdle by giving Fake Alfie a bowl of his treats rather than actual food. I personally blame my parents because the instructions they left were not clear. That’s my story anyway. Five dogs is fairly manic.I walk the two Aflies in the morning and evening but the other three are quite…well, I don’t want to say lazy, but they kind of are. They prefer to lie about sleeping or eating. Two Alfies on a walk though, ay ay ay. And the real Alfie is very much a lone wolf and doesn’t like being bothered by other dogs. He’s not aggressive or anything like that but he is very much Cold Shouldering the Fake Alfie and refuses to play (Fake Alfie is a puppy and loves ALL THE THINGS).I don’t mind staying at my parent’s house as I have my own bedroom (which they did up after I left and has a lovely soft double bed) but it’s an extra 20-30 minutes to work for me which is a ball ache, I won’t lie. It also means I can’t go to the gym in the morning. That said, it is nice not getting up at 4:57am at the moment and having a leisurely morning. Though I take my breakfast to work with me as I have to leave earlier. This means cold overnight oats which honestly does not rock my world.Even though it’s exactly the same amount of oats, milk and the protein powder I add to it (with some grated courgette for bulk and extra nutrients), it doesn’t taste as satisfying or feel as filling. Is this psychological? Or is it something about hot and cold food? Either way it’s pretty lame but only for a few days so I won’t moan.

My parents will be back Tuesday so my stint will be over soon and things will be back to normal again. I hate change 😉

Have you ever house sat before?

Have you ever looked after someone’s pet(s) for them when they’re away?

Overnight oats: yes or no?

Brighton Hove Prom parkrun and lots of food

So after I said goodbye to mum in London (continuing on from Monday’s post), I headed to meet my good friend, Charlotte, to go to Brighton to spend the evening and Saturday with her. I hadn’t seen her in a few months (far too long) and I’ve always been meaning to do a Brighton parkrun so it seemed a good time to do.

Let’s ignore that I also had the London Marathon on the Sunday… London, to Brighton, home, to London again. It was all rather complicated and dependent on me getting my train tickets correct and adult head on. Spoiler: I adulted well!

I love Brighton. It’s like London but better because not only does it have the sea but it’s less crowded and busy but still has the cool factor, funky shops and GREAT places to eat. Technically, Charlotte lives in Hove but it’s all walkable (as my dad and I found for the Brighton 10k…we parked at Charlotte’s so we didn’t have to pay ridiculous money).

And what’s immensely cool, but would be seriously dangerous for me if I had such an advantage, is the fact that their house has lots of Deliveroo options within the area. So that night we got some tasty burritos and chicken salad delivered from the Mexican restaurant, JQ’s Kitchen.I had smokey chicken and it was delicious. My friend also blew my mind by eating a pork burrito. Ever since I’ve known her (we’re talking over 10 years here) she’s been a veggie. And there she was, nonchalantly eating PORK like no big deal!

The next morning we had a glorious lie-in until 8am and then made a gentle amble (a leisurely 20 minute walk) to the nearest parkrun, the Hove Prom parkrun (Brighton actually have four parkruns!). She’s not a runner so she was there to support me, bless her, but I was still blown away by how close she lived to a parkrun! How convenient.I wore my Boston Marathon jacket and it contrasted nicely with the beautifully coloured beach huts. The weather was gorgeous. Barely any wind, lots of sunshine and just a very slight chill. Perfect parkrun conditions.

Hove Promenade parkrun is quite a simple course. You basically run up and down the promenade (surprise, surprise). Because of this, it’s very flat. There are four turnarounds though which can break the flow, but really it’s a very good PB-potential course I’d say. Not that I was aiming for that the day before a marathon!There was a lovely happy buzz about the place as the Brighton & Hove Albion football team had recently got promoted to the premier League (the first time in a LONG time apparently) so lots of people had worn the blue and white colours to celebrate. The Run Director was very funny as well so made the start an enjoyable experience. It’s always nice when it’s a bit more relaxed and jovial.

I had intended on aiming for the 24 minute mark but on a flat course and feeling good, I realised I would be aiming for a faster time. I wasn’t going to bust my lungs or ruin my legs, but I did want to blast it out. I’ve done this before marathons previously so I didn’t feel in danger of doing anything too stupid (or at least, stupid relative to my usual Annerisms).Charlotte stood on the sidelines cheering us on and snapping some photos. It was nice to see her a good number of times as we ran up and down the prom (you basically run up and down twice, with the start/finish in the middle).If I’m honest, the course is a little dull. The sea views are beautiful but it’s all on the flat concrete path of the promenade and you’re running up and down… which after about 10 minutes can feel quite monotonous. That said, the final finish bit is quite cool. Once you turn around for the final stretch, it’s about a quarter of mile to the finish. It’s a fair way but I had enough gas in the tank to power past several people and keep working until I reached the end. That final push really did take it out of me though and I had that horrible “oof feel a bit sick feeling”.

I got 21:40, which I’m so pleased with. I’m loving seeing these 21:xx’s at the moment. I feel in a good place. I know when I’m super fit when I’m hitting 20:xx’s though, but I can’t see that happening soon without extra speed sessions.

And EVEN better than the short walk to the parkrun was the short walk to the nearby Starbucks. What a luxury! I had a delicious SF hazelnut Americano as we walked back to Charlotte’s house. We stopped in a couple of shops en route where I clocked a pair of Nike leggings that began a mental battle in my head about whether to buy or not (I did not) and we overheard a bunch of runners talking about London, which made me rather nervous!

I quickly showered and we headed out again (skipping breakfast as it was now past 11am) and walked into Brighton. We were aiming for lunch at Food For Friends, which I’d heard sooo many good things about (especially from Maria). We got there in perfect time for lunch and they thankfully had room for us (apparently they get very busy).

We were both quite hungry by this point so decided on having some starters as well. The majority of our choices were influenced by what we saw other people ordering.For starters I had Goat’s curd, caramelised pear and hazelnut praline (yes I did copy that from the website). We also shared some paprika halloumi bites which came with a sweet chilli dipping sauce, which were incredible.We both went for the crispy sweet potato cakes for our main but we agreed we may have made the wrong decision. We saw so many delicious and varied plates go past us to different tables, so when our three potato cakes came out they looked a little bit…well, boring. Don’t get me wrong, they tasted really good and they were lovely and filling but there wasn’t much variety to the meal and a whole lot of sweet potato. I wish I’d have chosen a salad or something a bit more exciting. I did enjoy it though and the carbs were very welcome pre-marathon.

On the subject of necessary carbs, after lunch we moseyed about the cool vintage and unique shops while keeping our eyes open for a potential pudding opportunity. And lo! and behold, in the middle of one of the streets we spotted a beautiful array of delicious-looking treats.Straight away I knew I wanted the peanut butter and salted caramel cookie. It looked incredible. I’m actually not a huge peanut butter fan, but mixed with the salted caramel intrigued me. Plus walking around eating a cookie would be easier than trying to cram a slice of cake into my mouth (don’t get me wrong, it wouldn’t necessarily hinder me, but for the benefit of all those around me I thought it would be a nicer experience to just attempt to eat a cookie). Charlotte got a brownie, which had chunks of Oreo cookie inside (an “Oreo Mosaic” apparently). Usually I’m a big brownie fan, but I prefer them warmed up with ice cream (I know, such a cake diva). I also managed to persuade Charlotte to share a chocolate “crinkle” cookie as well. It was only £2 and it practically jumped into my hands I swear.

The cookie was really dense, soft and crumbly (the ideal cookie consistency in my humble opinion). Very tasty. The chocolate crinkle cookie thing was very dense and soft. It wasn’t dry but it did suck the moisture out of your mouth. I also tried (and then later finished off…) Charlotte’s brownie, which had a great texture of soft and crunchy. Basically I was in cake munching heaven.We walked around a bit more, saw some cool graffiti, and then after grabbing another Starbucks because wellllll, one must when with fellow Starbucks lovers, I headed to the train to go back to my parent’s house. I’d walked far too much and eaten far too much sugar, but I was very happy indeed.

What’s your favourite kind of cookie?

What would you choose as a vegetarian meal to eat?

Have you done any of the Brighton parkruns?

The London Marathon Expo

Being ill last week meant I’ve become a bit behind in my blog posts… So here’s a rather delayed recap of the Friday before the London Marathon (check out my recap if you haven’t already) and the marathon Expo.

The few days before were somewhat hectic. As the London Marathon doesn’t post your bib to you, you need to collect it (and you obviously cannot do this on race morning due to how huge the race is). As we didn’t do much for Mother’s Day, I asked my mum if she wanted to come with me to London on the Friday and I could treat her to a nice lunch out, and she could join me at the Expo as well (two birds and all that).

My mum enjoys supporting my running but rarely comes to watch as my parents have three dogs and leaving them all day on their own isn’t that fair (and it’s usually four dogs in total as Alfie joins them!). So coming to the Expo was a nice way for her to join in with the buzz.We got the train to London and headed straight for the Expo. As we changed tubes, you could start to see other fellow runners also on their way there. It reminded me of our journey to the Boston Expo last year as we just followed the other runners to the Excel.I got chatting to a really nice guy who was running his first marathon and raising money for an Alzheimer’s charity. I wish I’d gotten his name or bib number so I could know how he did. He was such a nice guy but very nervous. Also very cool as he worked for F1!It was fairly quiet (about 11am Friday) of which I was grateful for. Luckily I’ve never had to go to an expo when it’s rammed. For all the big ones I’ve done I’ve always gone on a less busy day. Obviously it can’t be helped sometimes, but it was nice to not have to queue for the  bib collection and to walk around the expo without it being too crowded.We tried lots of free samples of protein bars, oatie snacks, Clif bars and drinks (*cough* beer).We picked up lots of freebies and I purchased a few items from Adidas (the main sponsor). I was really surprised at how cheap the Adidas marathon jacket was. Both the Tokyo jacket (by ASICS) and the Adidas Boston jacket (full price – I actually bought it almost a year later in the sale) was over £100! So I was chuffed it was “only” £55 so treated myself to a singlet as well.I also got my face painted because I’m approximately eight years old.It was a great Expo. I spotted a few people I knew; one of the organisers from the Sports Tour International company who went on the Tokyo trip, the lovely Sarah and Dan from the Xempo kit stand and my friend Ade. Nice to see lots of friendly faces. There were a few areas you could queue to have your photo taken, such as with a big version of the medal or a large picture frame, but I really didn’t fancy queuing. I was happy enough with the photos I got!

We were in and out in an hour and hopped back on the tube to head to Covent Garden for some lunch. Originally we were going to go to Jamie’s Fifteen but we decided to spend more time around Covent Garden instead and find somewhere nice for food there. Jamie’s Fifteen is actually quite far out from everything. We decided on Monmouth Kitchen, which looked rather good from Trip Advisor and from general outside appearances.The hostess asked if she could look after our coats and bags for us but I said I’d hold on tightly to my Expo bag as it contained my London Marathon bib 😉 I also explained why I had face paint on…The food was delicious. It was tapas, so the portions were obviously very small. If I’m honest, as tasty as it was, it wasn’t my favourite. I have quite a big appetite so tiny little portions don’t quite feel as satisfying. However, I did enjoy it (the presentation and taste were amazing) and my mum really liked it.I had mini (TINY) chicken tacos, a selection of meats (sausage, Poussin, steak) and chicken lolly pops. For pudding we both got chocolate rolled in these crispy spring roll-style pancake things with coconut and passion fruit sorbet. Very tasty, but again very small portions.

We then did some shopping. I was keen to buy a new pair of leggings from Lululemon as a treat but realised the pair I wanted (the Align Pant) were high-waisted. I love the material as it’s so soft and super smooth, but I am really not a high-waisted person. The salesgirl tried her best, bless her, but I was not going to pay £90 for a pair of leggings I wasn’t in love with. Fail!

After more shops, we headed to Hotel Chocolat (my favourite chocolate shop) and my mum had their ice cream while I had a very indulgent salted caramel hot chocolate. The barista asked if I wanted chocolate cream on top. Did I want chocolate cream on top?? What a silly question!!There was a large bowl of chocolate chips on the counter and I asked the server what they were for and she explained that they got melted down to use for the hot chocolate. Good lord. And how did it taste? Like heaven blended up, served in a cup and topped with chocolate cream. Then we carried on shopping and milling about, fuelled sufficiently by copious amounts of sugar.My mum was going to get the train back home while I was going to meet my friend, who works in London, at Victoria Station to head to Brighton. Before this, we decided to have one last little snack…Some fro-yo from Snog of course. It was delicious, and the perfect end to such a lovely day!

What’s your favourite thing about a race expo?

What restaurants do you like in Covent Garden?

What style of leggings do you prefer?