Vegan delights, running late and too much cake

This weekend was both super busy and super chilled. A good mixture I think!

On Friday night I stayed at my parent’s house as I’d planned on running to Lee-On-Solent parkrun the next day in order to kill two birds with one stone. I haven’t done parkrun since before Austria because of my injury, but I wanted to get back to it. Equally I wanted a long run and as I’ve been playing it super safe only running three times so this meant combining the two on Saturday as I’d already run Tuesday and Thursday. Lee-On-Solent parkrun isn’t very far from my parents so was a safe distance to add on before the 5k.

I was feeling quite tired so decided that I wouldn’t set my alarm too early. 7.30am seemed about right. As long as I was running no later than 8.10am that would give me a good amount of time to run 5 miles and have a bit of a buffer just before parkrun. For reasons beyond comprehension, when I’d planned my run I hadn’t really spotted that it was longer than 5 miles to get to the actual starting area of parkrun. And, as always, I wasted a bit of time in the morning faffing around… meaning by 8.15am I was still trying to locate satellites and not having much luck.

But, ever the positive and optimistic, I set off without a care in the world at 8.20am. The run felt good and I zoned out listening to a podcast as I plodded along. Funnily enough one of my non-running friends said they saw me running and got confused why I was running in the opposite direction to the Lee parkrun. They didn’t understand why I didn’t just run directly there. I had to explain about trying to get the extra miles. They didn’t quite get it. Non-runners, eh 😉

As I was running a route I often do when I run a long run from my parent’s house I know how many miles roughly there was to go until I got towards the Lee-On-Solent area. I realised I’d made a mistake somewhere in my planning. It was now closing in on 8.45am and I still had about three miles to go. I sped up a bit. As I was running along the coast I could see in the distance where the parkrun would begin. I was still so far away!As it got to 9am I was about 0.5 miles away and started passing some of the marshals. As I legged it past I shouted “Don’t think I’m going to make it!” and they laughed and said I better hurry up. I was somewhat banking on there being lots of messages at the start to delay it a bit but it seemed unlikely to be delayed so much after 9am. When I got to the start area of course they had already gone as it was now almost 9.10am. I ran past my friend Rebecca, who was marshalling and celebrating reaching 100 times volunteering (!), and she laughed at my lateness. I debated not doing it and just supporting and then getting my extra miles by running home (which would be about three miles) but I could see the runners ahead and decided just to try and catch up as much as I could and have a slower time.By this point I’d been running a lot faster than I intended so attempted to slow down a bit. I was now at parkrun so could chill. It was a shame to be late because my friend Ben was going to run with me at parkrun. I saw him fly past me in the other direction as he’d reached the turnaround point ages ago. I shouted I was late and he laughed at me (a theme for this run). Though it was quite a satisfying run because I could pick so many people off and feel like I was really gaining on the field. I wondered idly how many miles it would take to catch up with people running similar speeds to me… more than parkrun I thought. In fact the maths of it confused me a little – could I ever catch up to people running at my speed? No, I’d need to run faster wouldn’t I? The random thoughts of a runner…Anyway, as Ben had finished a lot before me he came back for me and ran the last 0.5 mile with me. I was pretty puffed by this point as I was still running faster than planned. I was still feeling a bit stressed about the whole thing! It was nice though to feel a bit of speed in my legs and I tried not to dwell on how much I’d lost since getting injured. Such is life! I finished, on my watch, 23:26 which isn’t too shabby at all given the time off I’ve had (my actual time was 30:18 tho). And a total of 9.6 miles. I was tempted to run it up to 10 but by that point I was done. I chatted with Ben (he’s working his way up to 50 marathons!) and Rebecca. She’s such a lovely, lovely person and it’s such an incredible achievement to have volunteered so many times.She seemed to be under the impression that it might seem a bit “sad” but I fully disagreed with her. It’s a fantastic thing to do and she should be really proud of herself. Volunteering is so important in the parkrun world (and life in general). You could equally call runners “sad” for running so many of them too. So enough of that nonsense Rebecca!

As I headed off I noticed a vegan burger van and had to get a photo as it looked very quirky and I’d never seen one before – also selling churros randomly. I tried to discreetly take a photo but one of the vegan runners who was stood next to it spotted me and did a great pose. It was very amusing!My parents helpfully picked me up and then I had to race to get ready as I was meeting Andy for lunch and time was a’ticking! He picked me up with his parent’s adorable Cavalier, Tilly (the same black and white colouring as my parent’s dog Dylan). Tilly is very sweet and well behaved. And luckily the place we were going for food allowed dogs inside. To balance out our recent burger exploits, we decided to go to Off Beet in Wickham, which is a fully vegan cafe/restaurant. And honestly if you’re in the area and like good food – even if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan – you must go there. The food is INCREDIBLE. It’s so reasonably priced (£9-12 for a main meal), sustainably conscious and amazingly inventive with their ever-changing menu. I’ve been there before with the lovely April so I knew I was in for a treat.

Tilly chilled out (though was ever aware of any food that would come her way by ‘accident’ under the table) as we debated back and forth of what to get… it all sounded so good! In the end Andy went for tacos (with harissa charred cauliflower and blackbeans on handmade gluten-free tacos).And I went for the Thai Green curry and tofu-fried rice. We also got some polenta chips…just because!It was so tasty. Now though I know I always seem to be eating ridiculously amounts of meat, I’m a food lover in general and can appreciate good food, regardless of whether it’s vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free or whatever. If it tastes good, I’ll eat it. I’m always happy to try different foods and give things a go. Yes I love meat but I’m happy to not eat it if the dish is good enough without. And it was DELICIOUS. And very filling. Well, not too filling… there was still room for pudding.

There are so many different kinds of vegan cakes we were really spoilt for choice. When Andy went to the till to order I’d told him if the one slice of brownie cheesecake was still there I would have that otherwise a peanut butter-based cheesecake. Well, he came back with three options! Definitely the best decision right there.

We shared (yes I know, I SHARED. Can you even imagine?) the three pieces. They weren’t overwhelming sweet like regular cake but they were very tasty (no refined sugars and all that jazz). They had interesting textures from the crushed nuts and creamy bits. I can’t really tell you what we had… one was probably chocolate chip banana bread, one was Nutella based and the cheesecake looking one was the peanut butter. My favourite was last one I think. But it was a tough call!

After filling our boots, we headed out for a walk down the bridal path of Wickham. It was a lovely day and a lovely walk. Tilly was pooped by the end!

That evening I had my friend’s 30th birthday party BBQ to go to (well, my married couple friends were both celebrating their 30th if that makes sense). By this point enough time had passed and I was hungry again. There was a fantastic spread of food and I loaded up a plate of vol au vents, pulled pork (winner right there), sausages and salad. Later I also had a burger and more pork. I guess I kind of undid all the good vegan work I did earlier I’m afraid!

Then trifle and chocolate cheesecake appeared… Well the BBQ went on well into the evening so a lot of this food was spread over a good amount of time. And of course I had to have some of this AMAZING unicorn cake. Some of it was coffee-flavoured (not my favourite admittedly) and rainbow sprinkles ‘flavour’. It was incredible. I felt well and truly pudding’ed out by this point!The BBQ was such good fun with my friends. Lots of games, banter and chilling out. A perfect end to a great Saturday.

Sunday saw a gym visit, chores and finally some relaxing! Whew.

How was your weekend?

If you’re not a vegan, would you ever eat at a vegan restaurant?

Have you ever been late to a parkrun?

Rants and Raves #38

What’s been bugging me and making me smile lately? Let’s find out… (did that read as cheesy as it sounded when I read it out-loud? Yeah).

Rave: Time. I have so much more time in my life at the moment. When I worked in Basingstoke it would take at absolute best 40 minutes to get home. But that was from sitting in the car in the carpark to parking my car in the garage. From my new office in Portsmouth (incidentally the same location as the Lakeside parkrun and also the D Day 10k I did back in June), from being in my office to standing in my flat it takes 25 minutes. It literally takes 15-20 minutes to drive there. THIS IS INCREDIBLE. For over five and a half years I have driven up and down the M27 and M3 and more times than not it will take me over and hour to get home. OK yes it is currently school holidays so the roads are quieter, but even still if it takes less than hour from door to door I will be over the moon. Alfie doesn’t know what’s going on. He’s dead asleep when I get in.

And, similar to my last job, the working hours are fairly relaxed. Obviously you make sure you do your core hours and necessary tasks over the week but you can come in earlier or later and then correspondingly leave earlier or later. It’s fantastic. I think offices like this are far more realistic to how people want to work (obviously I know not all workplaces can or should do this but for a lot of office-based work it makes a lot of sense). It gives a good level of morale.

Rave: And while we’re on the subject of my new job… I love it. I mean it’s early days of course, but it is so interesting and everyone is so friendly and nice. The majority of people who work at Wiggle have some level of interest in cycling or running. You hear people chatting about their latest rides and runs all over the place. And there are bikes and trainers everywhere as the brand and design teams check them out. I mean, it is SUPER cool. And not to mention the bikes hanging from the walls, one of the Brownlee brother’s GB tri-suit framed, bikes wheels as clock faces, pictures all over the place. I’m very happy. And my job itself is something I have a genuine interest in and can’t wait to get more stuck into a progress further. I won’t be posting a huge deal about it because I want to maintain a level of professionalism but I will share where I can the little tidbits tat I get excited over 🙂

Rave: OK, OK one more rave about my new job. Every Friday they have a mini food festival on the field outside the office. EVERY FRIDAY.When I heard about this I had to swallow down a squeal (can’t let all the craziness out on the first week, of course). Sadly I’d already brought lunch with me but decided to venture downstairs and see what was on offer for future Friday lunches.Well, they had Caribbean food, Mexican food, pizzas, some American-style BBQ… and cakes. Oh the cakes.I stood there for too long and caved under the might cake pressure. I had to get myself a rocky road slab. And I say slab because it was HUMUNGOUS.Rant: I had a car accident on my second day driving into work. It was my fault and it was very stupid. Luckily no one was injured. I was in a queue for some traffic lights and we’d stopped. I then saw the lights go green ahead and I went forward…straight into the still stationary car in front of me. Completely my fault for not checking the car RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. Luckily the man I drove into was very nice and didn’t yell at me. He calmly asked for my details and told me (after I’d apologised about a zillion times) that in the great scheme of things, it wasn’t that big an accident. No one had died or been badly hurt. So my little Fiat 500 is at the garage getting fixed and I have a little Citroen C1 and a £250 excess to cover. I’m trying not to think about how much my insurance will be when I renew it at the end of the year…*Sighs* you live and learn. Life was clearly going far too well for me currently!

Rant: Turning up to my gym (luckily a bit later than my usual 5.30am, I think it was about 6am) to find that the fire alarm was going off and everyone was stuck outside waiting to go back in.
Thankfully it was an error and luckily it was quite mild…in the middle of winter I would not have been amused. It was fairly cool to see a fire engine show up and a load of firemen ‘save the day’. Made for an interesting morning anyway!
Rave: Being interviewed for thrunABC magazine. It was a while ago I was sent the email so I’d kind of forgotten about it until someone Tweeted me letting me know. Ahh, fame! 😉
 My mum was so proud!
Rave: And a final rave…I was sent a crafty little hand-held device, called Zap-It!, which helps stop you itching when you get attacked by mosquitoes and bugs. Basically it generates a low, electrical impulse when clicked against the bite and what this does is reduce the histamine flow and stimulate capillaries, which flushes out the toxins (that make you want to itch).The shock is really very small so not painful at all. Not like that HORRENDOUS Tough Mudder electric shock obstacle, dear God. It can also be used up to 1,000 times (the poor soul who gets 1,000 bites…). A great addition to your essential gear for BBQ’s, festivals and of course any trail races! You can buy it in lots of chemists and supermarkets or online.
What are you ranting and raving about this week?
 
Have you ever had a car accident?
 
What’s most important to you about the environment you work in?

Food, fitness and finally RUNNING

I don’t think I’ve ever woken up on a Saturday and looked forward to Monday morning at work before. This is very strange to me! I mean, I didn’t hate my last job or dread going in but I never felt the excitement and genuine interest that I currently feel. Long may this last!

As I said, my posts are a bit few and far between right now as I find my new schedule and get my life in order…but for today’s post I’ll recap the weekend as it was a pretty good one!

I spent Friday night with my parents and had a very much needed long sleep and lazy morning with them on Saturday morning, walking the dogs down the beach and catching up. They wanted to know how my new job had gone and all that jazz. Though I obviously missed going to parkrun it was really nice to spend this rare Saturday morning with them for once.

A bit later I headed to the gym and had a really good session, if I do say so myself. I came up with a circuit-style workout that I did four times, and it definitely got the blood pumping and the endorphins racing.

  • 5 minutes on the rowing machine
  • 20x step ups
  • 20x lunges (w/barbell)
  • 20x squats and barbell overhead raise
  • 20x Swiss ball hamstring curls
  • 20x Swiss ball jackknives
  • 20x bench bunny hops

I then followed this with 25 minutes on the elliptical machine watching Iron Man 2. I’ve seen barely any of the Marvel films so I’m using my cross training time to catch up. So far I’ve done Iron Man and half of Iron Man 2 – only 9,000 more films to go 😉

That evening I headed out for another burger and ice cream-full evening with Andy. This time we were testing out 7Bone Burger Co., which is another Southampton burger-based restaurant (I believe there are a few around the place). This was a bit more low-key but very busy. It was literally packed! We luckily found a nice table and surveyed the menu.

I chose the Prince Charles is Overrated burger which came with a 10oz beef patty, bacon, cheese, lettuce, pickles and dirty spread (mayo-based yumminess sauce). I ordered frickles to come with it (fried pickles – ABSOLUTE dream).

And I think Andy ordered the Ronald’s Revenge (mustard, double cheese, fried onions) and chilli cheese fries. We also shared some halloumi fries.

So comparing these burgers with the burgers from last week at The Rockstone… I can say that the burgers themselves were better at The Rockstone – a bit more “meaty” and substantial. The 7Bone Burgers disappeared very easily and very quickly. However, the meal itself was better at 7Bone because of the entire package. The frickles and the halloumi fries were literally heaven.

Andy kindly shared his fries with me and they were AMAZING. I mean, I’m not really a processed cheese fan but my God these were another level.

We let things settle before walking over to the handily located Sprinkles for a deja vu moment of finishing off the meal with ice cream again. This time I decided not to go for the behemoth sundae that I went for last time and stuck to a slightly more modest pudding in a jar.

I had the Guilty Pleasure, which contained gelato, melted chocolate, strawberries, brownie bits and caramel popcorn. Actually it was a little bit of a disappointment as quite a chunk of the jar was just cream and strawberries. I got major food envy of Andy’s jar which contained freshly baked cookie bits. Ah well, you live and learn.

Ooooof, what a meal! I was stuffed (again). Enough burgers and ice cream now for a while please!

The next morning I headed out for my first “long run” in a while. I’d run twice in the week to good results – minimal knee discomfort and nothing getting worse post run. So I decided to up the ante and go for the big one. SIX MILES. Jesus, calm me down. Six whole miles. Only five weeks to the marathon… PANIC.

Not quite. I’ve been here before where I’ve been injured and my well-laid marathon plans have been scuppered. So I’m familiar with this process. Inverse taper to the big day is the way forward. The only thing that will hold me back is if my knee decides to not play ball.

I’m quietly confident at the moment though as it felt pretty good during the six miles. The first mile was a bit uncomfortable but then it was absolutely fine. I was tempted to go further but thought NO ANNA, don’t over-do it. Keep calm and level-headed and just build those miles up slowly again until the big day.

What really made me happy was that I felt very comfortable running at a good pace. I don’t appear to have lost any major fitness in terms of cardiovascular-ness (technical term there). I just need my body to get used to the impact and pounding of running on pavements again. The elliptical machine is all well and good keeping my fitness in tune but it does nothing for allowing the ligaments etc. to adjust to that ground force.

After the six miles I headed quickly to the gym to top this up with 35 minutes on the elliptical machine to kind of replicate a longer run. I felt a bit weird turning up to the gym already sweaty but hey ho. Needs must. Then it was a quick dash home, shower and head to my parents to go over on the ferry to Gunwharf for a mosey round the shops and then a walk into Southsea for lunch.The Southsea kite festival was going on which was really cool as well. So many crazy kites!SouthseaI love the photo of the man behind me wearing his very cool purple sparkly cowboy hat.

We then found the delightful Algarve Grill restaurant and had Portuguese-style tapas. Oh god, ALL THE FOOD.I was actually looking for something a bit lighter after the big meal the night before… but these things happen. I had sardines, meatballs, chicken skewers, these meat breaded pouch things and a pork dish (pork pieces cooked in a very delicious butter sauce). I was STUFFED. Happily we had quite a walk to get back to the car (all the way to Gunwharf, then over on the ferry and then to the carpark from there) so it had time to go down! Though I was shattered by the time we finally got back to the car. I’d done almost 30,000 steps!

Whew, that was a big post! Hopefully going to get back into some regular posting so watch this space 😉

How was your weekend?

What’s your favourite burger side?

What’s your favourite Marvel film, if you have one? I really like Thor but I’ve heard Captain America is really good.

MarathonTalk Austria Run Camp – part 2

Continuing on with the Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp… 

*Catch up with part one if you missed out*

So Wednesday was the day I was probably least looking forward to. We had a planned “session”. Being a rather lazy runner who doesn’t do much (*cough* if any) speedwork, interval sessions and track workouts aren’t really my thing. It’s partly down to associating speedwork with injuries and partly down to not having a terribly strong desire to whittle down my PB’s. So the pain-gain balance doesn’t quite work for me.

Martin (Yelling – of MarathonTalk podcasting duo) was great at putting people (me!) at ease the night and morning before. It’s easy to big these things up and start worrying. He helped us frame things in in a way that meant we could go into the session relaxed and excited, using it as a way to challenge ourselves without freaking out.

We headed out in the morning after breakfast.We had about two miles of gentle running to the area where we were going to do the intervals. Martin led a warm-up routine (high knees, bum kicks, etc.) and then we had time to do our own personal preparations.

The session was 3×2 minutes 5k or faster efforts with two minutes static recovery, followed by about six minutes of rest and 10 minutes of 10k effort, followed by rest (can’t remember how long) and then 3×2 minutes again. I was dreading the shorter efforts as I’m a long distance runner and hate sprinting. Funnily enough though the shorter sections were far more preferable to me than the horrific 10 minute long effort, which reminded me of why I hate 10ks.

Suns out guns out 😉

Martin was great at shouting out the times and also picking us up on form, reminding us to keep our hips high, use our arms, raise our knees…stuff like that.For the 10 minute effort we ran five minutes one way and then turned round and ran five minutes back. This was horrific, I won’t lie. I was annoyingly in the middle of the groups so was on my own. The demons in my head telling me to slow down, not bother, decrease the pain…but I pushed on. It was nice to do a session like this in a group, knowing you weren’t alone in your pain. But it was tough. I thought I’d then struggle on the third session (the second set of short sprints) but actually I maintained relatively similar speeds to the first sprints.Then we jogged a mile to the little local cafe for some refreshments. Ahh it felt good to have worked hard! I say this ALL the time but I do need to do sessions like this more often. In the cafe I was able to spot a pudding that I knew 100% I needed in my life before I left Austria. Oh yes, I would be back.

After showering and lunch, Rob drove a few of us down to Mariazell for a little wander about as we didn’t do much exploring the day before. The little town is a popular pilgrimage destination and very pretty, and wasn’t far from the villa by car. Weirdly it’s known for its gingerbread and honey so lots of shops were selling this (including gingerbread ice cream).Alongside these shops there were lots of touristy stalls selling all manner of tacky memorabilia, like key-rings, postcards and even water bottles with the Pope on. Obviously.There was a lovely area where you could see the surrounding view as well as a hop scotch that demanded immediate attention. After meandering around a bit we decided to enjoy a nice coffee and snack in one of the cafes under the basilica.The coffee came with a chocolate marzipan which was just delightful. I gobbled it up quickly so I wouldn’t have to share 😉

Wednesday evening after dinner we had a quiz made by one of the run campers, Dave. It was hilarious. Bless Dave, he’d obviously given a lot of thought to it but it did unravel a few times, despite his meticulous eye for detail (“Data Dave”). Despite the bumps, it was a really good quiz with lots of laughter.Before coming on the holiday together we’d been asked to send our favourite running/motivational song to him and then we had to guess who’s song was who’s during the quiz. After spending a few days with each other it was a really fun thing to try and do. I chose Muse’s Knights of Cyndonia which I think surprised a few people (apparently Destiny’s Child’s Independent Woman seemed more my bag). Can I just add that I was on Martin’s team for the quiz and he was about 100% useless.

The next day we drove to the bottom of a mountain and got a chair lift up to about half way so we could run the rest of it up, then run all the way down (hi, I’m a runner and do pointless things).I thought we’d be in one of those enclosed car things, not actually sat on a ski lift right out in the open. I’ve used one of these before when I went skiing but it’s slightly different seeing hard rocks and ground below you rather than fluffy snow (though I do realise both would cause injury). But we survived!

Running up the mountain was more like run a bit, slow down, die a little, run a bit more, die a bit more, crawl. But the views more than made up for the lactic acid overflow invading my quads and glutes.We arrived at the top to find a play area. I mean, come on, what a fantastic place for a play area. Obviously a tester had to be done!So much fun. One day I’ll be an adult, but not yet!Then we began the descent down. Well, after a few photo opportunity moments, including Martin finally getting his “T-Shirt Around the World” photo for MarathonTalk. We also did a mini photoshoot where Martin took photos of us running past him with the beautiful scenery behind. Mine sadly didn’t come out too well!The run down felt fabulous after all the uphill running but after a while it became tricky in its own way. Getting your footing right on the unstable rocks and tiny trail paths required serious concentration.It was around 11k of running down to reach our destination, another lake. It was a fantastic run. I mean all you had to do was look behind you to see where you’d come and be blown away. And hearing cow bells in the distance as well and the smell of the pine and the all encompassing peace… it really puts it into perspective that not all runs are created equal.The lake was crystal clear. I think it took all of five minutes before a few of us had stripped off and gotten into the water. Luckily the busses had been dropped to the car park so I handily had my bikini and towel to hand. Then I enjoyed an ice lolly and coffee. Divine. What utter luxury.

That afternoon I did something I rarely (if ever) do. I got my kit back on and headed out with a few others for ANOTHER run. Double day running, baby! (Oh hey, Anna, maybe this is why your knee niggles now?) This was purely for cake though, I hasten to add. The others were going for 10k but all I fancied was a very gentle 5k and then a pit-stop for the mammoth cake I’d spotted the day before.My fellow run camper and friend, Sarah (super speedy, she holds the record for fastest fancy dress nun at London Marathon and has a marathon PB just over 3 hours) and I shared one of the monster cakes… Normally I don’t share food but I’m glad we did. Look at the size of my slice!Covered in custard, chocolate sauce and cream. I think we have a winner!

We went out for dinner that evening and the less said about that the better! I made a spectacularly bad decision on what I ordered and ended up with five fish goujons on a salad with a watery garlic dressing/sauce. The problem we had was that the menu was in German and we only had a few people to translate so it was a bit of a guess.

With my mediocre portion of disappointing food I decided the only way to improve matters was pudding. But lo and behold I fared badly in that area too. I was led to believe I was ordering a delectable strawberry cheesecake but received instead some suspect strawberry mousse. So, what does any normal person do? Order ANOTHER pudding. Obviously.I ordered the apple strudel and all was well again.

The next day, Friday, was less eventful as we’d be leaving for the airport (insert sad emoji here). Originally it was going to be a 10k time trial but no one was really up for a serious speed sesh after ALL the running we’d done so we headed out for a relaxed jaunt, some doing 10k and some doing 5k.

In true Anna style, I blithely ignored Martin’s map chat and directions beforehand because I assumed I’d always see someone ahead or near me. I’m rubbish with directions anyway so really there was no point me listening. Yep, I’m actually a 29 year functioning adult apparently.

Off we went and straight away I found myself alone again with the lead pack sprinting ahead. All fine, all fine, I can still see them. La la la plodding along. Wait, where’ve they gone? I’m sure they went down this road. *10 minutes later* wow this is steep. It looks like it’s going up this mountain. That can’t be right. I remember them saying there was a slight incline…but this is tortuous. Hey where’s everyone else?

*Sighs* I decided to randomly turn off from the main path to find my own little way slowly up the nearby mountain. Luckily I realised my error after hitting 5k and deciding the best thing to do was just turn around and go exactly the way I’d come. Worst case I’d bump into people coming the other way, best case I’d just get back to the villa.I arrived back to find the 5kers back and I was the first to return. I’m sure it must have looked strange me being the first back – the sudden rocket speed I’d gained! But turns out Martin’s route was longer than 10k whereas mine was pretty much dead on. I basically just clarified my stupidity. Though, no names, at least I didn’t have to hitchhike my way back after getting lost like someone else did… 😉

And then we were off to Vienna for a few hours before the airport. Vienna is infinitely less interesting than the Austrian mountains and lake so I won’t recap it, asides from a rather delicious slice of Mozart cake.I kind of don’t want to sing the praises of this camp too much. There will be a limited number of places for next year’s “proper” run camp and I’d love to go again. We were able to feed back a few issues (for example, for vegetarians, it was noted that more options were needed) but otherwise it was a pretty successful trial which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.I mean, it does kind of depend on getting a good bunch of people as well (of which we were supremely lucky. Everyone was just lovely and we bonded very nicely – I sincerely hope to keep in touch), but the scenery, the villa and of course the running was fantastic. If you can get there, I’d say GO.

Check out Sarah’s review as well here!

Have you been to Austria before?

Have you ever ordered badly at a restaurant?

Ever ordered to puddings?

MarathonTalk Austria Run Camp – part 1

Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp… well what do I say? Having been on three Sandy Balls Run Camps previously I knew as soon as I got the email invite this was a trip for me.

Described as a sort of ‘tester trip’ to see if the camp would work next year as an official MarathonTalk run camp, 14 of us headed out to Austria to joining Martin Yelling and a lovely guy called Rob to Rob’s luxury villa in the middle of nowhere somewhere outside of Vienna to run, chill and just have a good time. Martin, for those who don’t know, is one half of the running podcast MarathonTalk (if you don’t listen, do you even run?). He’s also married to the super fast Olympic elite runner, Liz Yelling. He’s not too shabby a runner himself either 😉It wasn’t a training camp per se, of which I was happy about as I prefer a more relaxed environment for these sorts things. It was very much similar to the previous Run Camps where you could run as much or as little as you’d like. More like a meeting of like-minded people in a beautiful setting with a bit of running thrown in.

The week started with my running club friend, Michelle, and I being picked up by Martin at a motorway services on route to the airport (he was coming from Bournemouth and handily Michelle knew one of the other guys going on the trip who was also being driven by Martin so we were able to blag a lift as well). At the airport we met up with more of the run campers and had breakfast.Standard procedure for me pre-holiday! Especially when you don’t know when you’re next going to eat. Go big or go home.

It was nice to actually meeting Martin properly. At Sandy Balls there are over 100 people and you don’t really chat to him or Tom Williams (the other podcaster). Martin’s a lovely guy – very relaxed and fun. Pretty much like he is on the podcast, but with fewer censors 😉 All the other run campers seemed very nice too and straight away I felt relaxed and happy. It was going to be a good week.We arrived at the villa to find a table spread with Prosecco, beer, soft drinks, water and fruit and had a bit of a refreshment before being shown our rooms.

Now when they described the villa as luxury they weren’t joking. It used to be a hunting lodge owned by a rather posh Austrian toff back in the day. Lots of wood panelling, fur rugs, antique furniture and deer antlers hanging from the walls (and a pinball machine because obviously…). There were three floors and each floor offered a different style of room. Some rooms had their own ensuite and some shared bathrooms between a couple of rooms. I was lucky to have a room with its own bathroom, though to be honest it wouldn’t have been a hardship to have shared. After the Sandy Balls Run Camp anything is an upgrade! 😉After dumping our stuff, it was time to stretch the legs out and have a little run around the beautiful lake just a stone throws away. The loop around the lake was 2.5k and for the first two loops we stuck together as a group, chatting and basically just gawping at the incredible scenery. The third lap Michelle and another run camper, Stuart, peeled off ahead. Michelle and Stuart are fast runners so I got caught up with their speedy pace while we were chatting!It was a fantastic group of people and amazingly we all just got on straight away. The common link of loving running obviously helped this, but despite all being different ages, with different backgrounds, lifestyles and experiences we just meshed. Of course I knew Michelle, and I also knew three of the others from previous Sandy Balls Run Camps but even with those who I didn’t know I found I could relax and easily chat to straight away.There was a good mix of people and downtime often involved meandering conversations and debates regarding interesting topics such as social media, minimalist living, favourite foods and hot pants (I’m not even joking).Dinner was prepared for us by the lovely staff (they did a fantastic job of taking care of us for the week – even providing us with a seemingly never ending Milka and Haribo supply). We all sat on a long table together for meals and it made for a very social and open environment.On the first night I did get somewhat confused and thought we were only getting soup and had a mild panic, only to relax when I realised a main course of fish and apple strudel pudding would be coming too. Whew. I was very well fed in the camp!

The next morning we met for breakfast (a continental affair) and prepared for the first proper run. This was to be a longish run following a route Martin and Rob had rec’ed for us on a previous trip. The plan was to stick together as a group and stop for a coffee halfway at lovely Austrian village before heading back.We were all of mixed abilities, from the super speedy Michelle (~18 min 5k PB) to the less cheetah tendencies. But despite this we stuck together, regrouping often, admiring the views and having impromptu photo shoots 😉The run was fantastic. We stopped halfway in Annaberg (my hometown) for a quick refreshment (Diet Coke and an ice lolly for me) before continuing our loop back to the villa. 14 miles in total. The day was ridiculously hot and after the run the obvious thing to do was jump in the lake. It was chilly but once you were in it was perfection.Lunch was hoovered up at rocket speed, the run having taken three hours! All that stopping, all those photos… I mean it was impossible to just run and not gawp. The terrain has been mixed; road, track, off-road, hills, declines… a bit of everything.

It’s certainly hard to say for sure but I think this was my favourite run… but it’s a close call.
That evening we ate al fresco with a BBQ of recently hunted local venison. Not being much of a drinker normally I found myself enjoying a cold Austrian beer each night. And pudding of course!Tuesday a few of us woke up early to get in a quick lake swim before breakfast. I’m not actually that keen a swimmer ordinarily but I love swimming in fresh water (but not arctic British dodgy lakes). I mean, it was pretty chilly I won’t lie but it didn’t half wake us up.After breakfast it was hard start with running uphill. I found this run quite tough and challenging. I let the demons in when I felt myself slacking behind the faster group but it was a good motivation to keep pushing. The risk of being left behind was never a reality as the other slightly slower group were behind me with Rob and Martin. Some of the second group preferred to do more walking, and this was fine. There were no judgements, no leaving people on their own. You felt very safe and un-pressured on the runs to go at your own pace and distance.Again, lots of stopping and taking photos. It wasn’t like the runs were non-stop. Though that terrain was challenging, it was never insurmountable, whatever your ability. The faster runners like Michelle and Stuart would run further ahead and then turn back to collect back with us. Everyone could get out from the run what they wanted.We ran through some gorgeous scenery and eventually reached the top part of the run. There was a chair lift option but a few of us decided to walk (or run!!) to the top. It was almost two miles and when I say uphill I mean some serious uphill.We arrived at a lovely little cafe right at the top where there was a beautiful tower you could climb up.After a quick refreshment, it was time for some fun downhill running all the way to the town, Mariazell, at the bottom.As always, the views were amazing and it was fun to stretch the legs out after such a punishing climb to the top.

We reached a beautiful view just before entering the town and the bells of the basilica were ringing, seemingly welcoming are arrival. All very magical.This required a celebratory ice cream and Diet Coke of course!

When we arrived back at the villa of course another lake swim was in order. One of the run campers, the lovely Becci, brought her GoPro so we had some fun lake pics. Such a great way to finish a run. I need to find me a lake…

And that will finish part one. Honestly it’s so hard whittling this down as there’s so much to say. I wish I could literally tell you everything but I’ll be getting to sound a bit like, “this one time, in Run Camp”… But anyway, part two to follow eventually!

Have you ever been to Austria?

Do holiday training camps appeal to you?

Do you swim much?