MarathonTalk Austria Run Camp 2018 – part 1

After a morning in Geneva, James and I headed to the airport once again to then fly to Austria where we met up with fellow Marathon Talkers ready for the Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp.

I went to last year’s Austria Run Camp so I was at somewhat of an advantage, knowing what to expect. There were a few others returning as well so I was excited to see them and to meet the new people. As expected, everyone was absolutely lovely. So many different backgrounds and experience with running, it was just so interesting chatting to everyone. It was also lovely to see Rob, who looks after the lodge we stay in, and his now partner Fiona. They got together after the trip last year when she was one of the campers! How sweet is that? They’re both such lovely people, they’re very well suited.Anyway, so after a rather carsick-inducing minibus ride to the lodge (oh those winding roads…), we arrived in Styria. The accommodation is a beautiful former hunting lodge and still very much rocking those themes with antlers all over the place and old fashioned furniture and wood-everything. My room was gorgeous and had such a beautiful view out to the front. I even had my own bathroom which was great.After having some welcome drinks and meeting everyone properly, we then headed out for a gentle 5k run (two laps of the lake which was literally just outside the villa). It was a beautiful evening and everyone was in such good spirits. Beautiful views, lovely people and five days ahead of running to look forward to. What could be better?The next morning a few of us decided to get up a bit earlier, before breakfast, to have a quick dip in the lake. I mean, it was VERY quick. The temperature of the lake was absolutely baltic – far colder than last year. It seemed that Austria hadn’t quite been hit with the same heat wave as Britain had and while it was certainly warm and sunny, this hadn’t affected the lake that much.It was a fun experience nonetheless. Breakfast, like all the meals, were a communal affair in the big dining room.The first run was a relatively gentle 7.5 miles to Annaberg, the nearby little town. This run was a steady uphill climb but it was lovely and relaxed and I felt strong and happy. The temperature was lovely and warm and it was sunny – I was glad to have remembered sun ran lotion! We stopped at a little spring to grab some water. It was cold and refreshing.This run was great because it allowed us to all chat and get to know each other. It was also nice to catch up with old running friends – some I made on last year’s Austria trip or other Marathon Talk meet-ups. Everyone was super friendly, the views were fantastic and it was just everything I love about running. 
No one caring about paces or minding to stop for photos. We eventually arrived at Annaberg (*cough* clearly my home town, eh). And we had a coffee and shared round some cake.Then we were back on the road to head back to the lodge. This was 6.4 miles, and started with a lovely downhill but then a fairly hilly climb. Basically most of the running we did was very lumpy! And while it was challenging, it was good fun.We had a great downhill section back to the lake which a few of us steamed off the front to stretch the legs a bit. I had the route on my watch (technology, eh!) and while I did stress to everyone I was probably the last person you’d want to trust with the navigation, we did manage to get back. I know, I’m as surprised as you. We got to the lake and immediately stripped off a few layers and got into the cold water. It was lovely!And then it was a quick march back to the lodge for lunch. Lunch was always a buffet affair with mostly cold meats, cheeses, salads and garlic bread. It filled a hole! We also had a good rule that no phones were to be used at the dinner table. This made sure that we didn’t switch off from each other. It was a good reminder to put the screens away and enjoy each other’s company. At first I was a bit twitchy (the self-confessed phone addict that I am…) but afterwards it became more natural. Rather than checking out my Strava of the run or going onto Instagram pointlessly, I chatted more and appreciated the time away. Don’t get my wrong, I still Instagrammed the shit out of everything but just not when I was sat around other people in times of chatting and being social! 😉In the mornings I got myself into a nice routine of waking up a bit earlier and doing a lap’s walk round the lake. It was about a half an hour walk and I found it helped loosen up my legs from the previous day’s run (something that became more needed as the week went on!) and it was a lovely peaceful time to listen to a podcast or music. I would often do an afternoon walk as well. As much as it’s lovely to be around interesting and like-minded people, it’s also nice to take some time out and just reflect on the day and have some “me time”. That sounds a bit “out there” but it’s something I really enjoy and why (amongst hundreds of other reasons) that I love having a dog.Anyway after my walk and breakfast, we headed out to Gemeindealpe where we caught a ski lift up to a half-way point of this very scenic mountain. Then we ran just over a mile basically straight up.I say run, there was lots of walking as well! And handily timed photo stops 😉Like many of the other runs we did this week, it was the same as last year, but this is no way made it any less beautiful or fun (/hard). It just meant I knew what was to come.We made it to the top, had a nice little break taking photos and having a drink in the café… and a bit of fun in the children’s park (possibly the most scenic children’s play area around) before heading off to then run across a ridge and then down the mountain.It was SO much fun. This was possibly my favourite day (though it’s a tough call). The run downhill started on compacted stony tracks but then descended into a forest and it was all about tiny quick steps across stones and branches. You had to use so much concentration to focus on not missing a step, not tripping over and not twisting an ankle. I loved it! Again a few of us stretched out ahead – but it’s OK guys, I’ve got the route on my watch! No problem!Except we did in fact go the wrong way when we reached the bottom. In fairness, it wasn’t entirely clear which direction we were supposed to go… as we got closer to the lake that sat at the bottom of the mountain I realised we’d made the wrong decision (I say “we” to shift some blame but realistically we all know this was my fault). It was fiiine. All we had to do was wade across a river, climb over a precariously built tall fence and then hack our way through a forest of giant leafy (and stinging) plants. Totally fine. Our Strava Flybe was somewhat amusing it must be said….Anyway everyone arrived at the lake safe and sound in the end – a solid seven miles. We were all very hot. The lake looked very inviting. And so did the giant slide! OK it might have been for kids but this didn’t hold us back. A bunch of us (yes Martin included) headed immediately for the slide. Bloody fantastic! And this lake was a lot less cold than our lake (not warm! But definitely a few degrees higher). Then we chilled with ice cream and a cold drink. I mean, what better way to finish a run eh?

That evening we chilled out watching the football with two giant bowls of crisps. Brilliant.The next day we had intervals planned. Now I know I’ve been on it with speed work fairly recently but with my calf being a bit sensitive and knowing that I would be doing so many miles on running over the week I decided it would be best if I didn’t do them. This might sound a little like I chickened out (and you’d probably be half right) but realistically it was me being a sensible runner. I know my body and I know when my calf is feeling sensitive the last thing to do is bosh out a load of sprinting. Plus I was in a certain frame of mind where I needed to get away from everyone for a bit and do a bit of solo running. Some escapism and Anna-only time.I ran with the guys to the spot where they’d be doing the intervals and then I headed out for a 10k run of my own. I was a bit dubious that I’d get lost on my own but I had a fairly simple out-and-back planned (if in doubt, Anna, always do an out-and-back). It was such a lovely run on my own. It was along a track under the trees and relatively flat until it got to a rather gruelling hill. It didn’t go on for too long though thankfully and then there was a glorious stretch of downhill which I gently plodded down, rather than powering down as I had the day before. This run was about the chill and ‘clearing my mind’ factor. A very lovely and gentle run, far better for my mind and body than blasting out crazy sprints.Afterward I watched the end of the intervals and then we all headed to the nearby café (the only café within a short distance of the lodge) and had a cold drink with everyone. That evening we had a fantastic BBQ (which included some locally roaming venison). We chilled, we chatted, and of course we ate 😀What I love about the Austria Run Camp is that it’s very much not just about the running. Yes the running is important of course but realistically by lunchtime we’re usually done. It’s just nice to chat to other runners from all walks of life in a relaxed and beautiful environment. I would find myself taking an impromptu nap on the sofa in the living room or chatting to Martin and the others about the pros and cons of social media, or lounging in the sunshine on the terrace just watching the world go by (and a very slow-paced world so far away from the crazy busy world I normally live in). The running was done in a relaxed way, nothing set in stone, nothing dictated… no real structured training or seriousness. This is the kind of running I love.

I’ll leave my recap there for now…

Have you ever been to Austria?

Do you enjoy more structured or relaxed training?

Have you ever been to a training camp?

Geneva and parkrun du Lac de Divonne

I am back from my holiday adventures! I have so much to talk about I don’t even know where to begin.

I’ll start with my little trip to Geneva. James and I arrived in Geneva Friday evening. Our hotel was actually in France though (Geneva is right next to the border). We got a taxi and headed for the nearest restaurant that would still be open (funnily enough, it was an America-style grill place) and then we had to lug our bags a mile to the hotel afterwards. It was a bit of a ball ache it must be said but hey ho. The little town we stayed in was very pretty and ridiculously French – like you definitely knew you were in France! It was gorgeous.The next morning was the time time for me to execute my genius “get to parkrun” plan. The nearest one was the parkrun du Lac de Divonne (again located in France). There weren’t any buses that came near our hotel and went to the parkrun which caused some complications but I’d found that in Geneva you could hire bikes for free. Geneva was only four miles from our hotel so the plan was to run in, grab the bikes and then cycle the roughly 11 miles to parkrun. Eeeeeeasy. Simple!

The four miles (which I’d already planned out and put onto my watch before the trip – check me out being all organised) were super easy. A real novelty was running through a tunnel which went under the Geneva airport runway which was rather cool – and ran from France into Switzerland. One for the memories!We passed the Place des Nations with all the flags lined up at the front. There was also the Broken Chair in front and the water fountain things.I didn’t realise but the Broken Chair was to commemorate the landmine victims and encourage countries to prohibit their use. Quite poignant.Because we were there so early there weren’t many people. It was nice to see some of the key touristy areas in the quieter times. And obviously get good photo opportunities! And then we got back to running to the bike hire place, which was about a mile or so away.The bike hire spot took a bit of time to actually find. And then we found it was closed and not open until 8am which was about 15 minutes away and meaning that suddenly 11 miles on a hired bike was going to be quite the ask. When we finally got inside the shop we were then informed that we’d need ID. Ah. We had money and our phones, but no ID. No bikes for us then.I take the full responsibility for this idiotic planning because, let’s face it, it was my fault for not checking the website (standard Anna-ism). After some discussion we decided to just take the hit and call an Uber – annoyingly now to be more expensive than if we’d have just done that from the hotel as we were now further away. Oh well, the things you do for parkrun tourism eh (ironically a free 5k event…).We arrived in good time and had a wander around the lake and then a quick visit to the single public toilet. The toilet was very odd. When it flushed it apparently washed out the entire room… you needed to make sure that you weren’t in there when that happened basically. We then headed over to the start…to find that we were surrounded by quite a few fellow Brits. In fact, there were so many British people compared to the French locals that it felt like the Benidorm of parkrun. That said, it was interesting to have the parkrun course explained in both French and English. Very cool.Then we were off. The parkrun was super flat. It was basically an out and back along the tarmac road next to the lake. It was very pretty but completely out of any shade and, as it was a rather hot and sunny day, this was quite taxing. I wanted to try hard but I just couldn’t seem to get my legs to go particularly fast (relative to what I’ve previously been running). I felt a little bit demoralised and that I’d wasted a decent course. But then I told myself to get over myself and just enjoy running in a different country in a beautiful place. Perspective certainly helps!So I whipped out my phone for some mid race snaps. I find this is a sure fire way to turn a hard run into an enjoyable experience. It takes the pressure off and I started enjoying myself a lot more.The finish line was a long straight strip of road which was great if you fancied yourself a sprint finish but reminded me horribly of the long and never-ending finish of the Dubai Marathon… *shudders*. Anyway I finished in 22:43 and first female. Though the field was very small – there were only 50 or so people actually running in total. I also came 6th as well which is definitely my best position ever.From the parkrun website they’d mention a café and given some directions so James and I headed over there – which was quite a walk. When we got there we realised it was part of a small children’s adventure park thing. We could see a café inside but the whole place was locked until 10am. So we hung around until they opened up. We were hoping to get some food but, using my very limited French (i.e. “petit déjeuner?”), we found they were only serving drinks. Well, the server did offer me Tiramisu but I politely declined.

We then tried the second café that was given on the website… another long walk away. But we eventually arrived and found the only place to buy food was a bakery. We could buy something from there and then sit in the café next door with a coffee and eat it (apparently a very acceptable thing to do). Obviously I wasn’t expecting a greasy spoon but I did fancy something a bit more than a croissant or cake (shocking I know).I managed to get myself a beef and cheese panini though and that helped tame the runger. Because we’d faffed so much with the different cafés we found the other parkrunners had since left. This was somewhat problematic for us later when we could have done with a bit of advice on how to get back…

Uber apparently did not want to pick us up from our location. To be fair, we were in a fairly quiet a remote French village. The thought of having problems getting back to our hotel hadn’t really crossed my mind. Now, as we started walking around the small town, it suddenly became apparent that this was a very real situation. Having previously checked for bus routes as a method to get to parkrun, I knew there would be no direct or easy route through public transport. And we certainly couldn’t find any bus stops with anything remotely near our destination. Right.

After getting not much help from two police men who spoke limited English (but were very nice) we felt a bit stuck. Two stupid Brits with no local knowledge or French… our own fault but frustrating nonetheless. We asked in a local café and the waiter, though friendly, wasn’t entirely helpful. He sort of shrugged in that very French way. He did eventually give me two numbers to try ringing for a taxi. Neither of which were any good – one couldn’t understand my request and the other laughed saying he wasn’t a taxi.

Panic now set in a little. It was over eight miles back and getting very hot. Sure we could run back but having run seven miles and feeling quite exhausted by the whole charade that morning, neither of us fancied it. Walking would be ridiculous too. Both our phone batteries were getting dangerous low and we decided to stop using them for anything other than emergency map use.

Finally we found a hotel and managed to beg the owner to ring us a taxi. She was super helpful and very apologetic when she told us it would be 50 Euros to get back. Well we had no choice! What a mess eh?

We did manage to arrive safely back at the hotel. Thank God. Another one for the Anna Book of Idiocy… but HEY I got a cool parkrun done!! Swings and roundabouts.For the rest of the day we spent walking round Geneva in the sunshine. Handily we’d gotten a decent piece of information from the taxi driver who told us about a place called Plainpalais where we could watch the football in a big outdoors area with food and drink.I’ve been really enjoying the World Cup and as it was Argentina vs. France it was definitely a game to catch, being that we were right on the French border as well. The atmosphere was bound to be good.We arrived luckily about 10 minutes before the match began and then queued to get in. I was highly affronted when the security guard told me I wasn’t allowed to take my apple in with me (no food and drink other than what you buy within apparently). I was so annoyed at having to throw a perfectly good apple away (I even offered to her but she didn’t fancy it. Hmm). Luckily though she was too concerned with the one apple in my hand she didn’t spot the other one hidden away in the depths of my handbag. Always good to have a safety apple 😉 James and I found ourselves two decent seats next to pop-up bar in the shade and settled in to watch the match. We had a few beers and enjoyed the atmosphere and cheering. It was good fun. By half time though we were both fairly hungry, having not eaten since ‘breakfast’ and it was now closing into the evening.We found ourselves a pizzeria (that happily had a TV) and continued watching there before moving on to a crêperie for some crêpes (when near France, eh). I had a delicious chocolate brownie one.It was divine. By this point I was steadily becoming rather merry – being quite the lightweight and having being drinking on an empty stomach.We watched the next match in the evening before calling it a day and heading back to a bus to take us back to the hotel. By the time we arrived back at the hotel (after passing through a weird carnival in the local town where our hotel was – very trippy in my tipsy state) we’d done over 42,000 steps. Jeeze. I was absolutely shattered!

Have you ever been to Geneva?

Would you have paid for a taxi to get to the parkrun?

Have you been enjoying the football?

What Fridays were meant for

One thing I love about my job is that usually every last Friday of the month we have a selection of organised cycles or runs (and swims, badminton sessions and walks!). You can get involved if you want, or not. This time we had three runs (a beginners, a 5k and a 9k), two rides (one fast and one more beginner orientated) and a walk.

I’d decided to do the 5k because I knew it would be a bit slower and ‘easier’ and as I was adding this as an extra run to my usual four, this would be perfect. I knew a lot of the people who would be doing it and it was a nice friendly crew (well, generally everyone at Wiggle are friendly but I knew these guys well from working with them regularly every day). I helped plan the route as the original route was going to be too muddy. It came out as about 6k but it would be better as it was going round the lake and we could stop when necessary to regroup or if people wanted to finish earlier they could.

We also had Gore in the office showing off their new nifty jackets and kit. They too were going to join us for the activities. Several people got to try their new jackets as well which was fairly well planned considering how rainy the afternoon was (Gore do great waterproof kit). It’s great with this aspect of my job, seeing new kit and meeting people behind the designs and the brand. It’s a bunch of people walk past and someone goes “Oh looks it’s the guys from adidas” and you get to see the new coming shoes. It’s often a “pinch me” moment at work with stuff like this…obviously amongst the scary presentations and boring parts of everyday work! I don’t intend on working in the sports industry forever as I know I’ll need to expand my horizons and learn more about the digital marketing industry in general in other sectors, but for now it’s pretty damn cool.So after a morning of rushing to get everything done that I needed to, at 2.30pm we congregated in the canteen before the run/cycle. Gore had also brought along Fabian Cancellara, their ambassador athlete. I won’t lie, I didn’t really know who he was (after a quick Google…he’s a four time world time trial champion and won countless of other cool races, like the Tour de France – I’m no cyclist so this is not really my area of knowledge!)But I still got involved in the shameless selfie situation obviously 😉It did make me laugh though as he took the phone off the girl who was going to take it and said “I can do this, I know the best angle”. No rookie selfie-taker clearly! Ha. He was super friendly though. He did seem confused by what I was wearing though asking if I was going to be cycling. Clearly I did not look like a cyclist! I explained there was also a run that was going on.

Then we got ready to head out for our run. We had a nice friendly crew of mixed abilities. My friend Kyle (who I sometimes go runching with) was leading the run but I helped out to take the front and he took the back for anyone who might get left behind. It worked well. Kyle had some serious amounts of enthusiasm and everyone joked that whatever he’d been taking we wanted in on it too. It was a fun run. Nice and relaxed, with everyone having a laugh and chatting.Annoyingly my adidas Boosts have run over 460 miles and really need to be changed but I won’t be picking up my new ones for a week and the Mizunos I thought I’d be able to wear feel dreadful. It’s so weird because I’ve worn those models before but they gave my foot cramp when I put them on and just felt SO structured and unwieldy. I’m thinking it’s better to go with an old pair of comfortable trainers than a new pair of uncomfortable ones.We didn’t manage to avoid the rain but luckily it didn’t tip down on us… Seriously lucky because I was off for dinner straight from work with my sister and didn’t particularly want to look like a drowned rat.The run felt so gentle and relaxed. I literally felt like I was jogging. I guess my marathon training is still helping. We had a couple of stop breaks to gather the group together when we separated out a bit and in the end did 3.8 miles.Then I quickly showered, did a bit more work and headed to pick my sister, Rachel, up so we could head for dinner at Cabana in Southampton in the new West Quay restaurant bit (the cinema there, Showcase, is amazing. Reclining seats and everything).

It was lovely seeing my sis and we caught up on life and the universe and ate some tasty Mexican/Brazilian food (I’m not really certain of the cuisine if I’m honest but it seemed a mix of that). I had chicken with a side of crispy cassava (a Brasilian root veg that were a bit like big chunky chips) and chicken wings. Delicious.Originally I’d planned on getting some pudding but decided to be sensible with my money… instead I enjoyed some Halo Top (Cookie Dough, best flavour) in bed watching Captain America: Civil War. I need to get up to date with the Marvel movies as I’d quite like to see the new Infinity War in the cinema. It looks crazy epic. Ice cream in bed with a good movie? Pretty good.

Do your work ever organise team events like this?

Are you into the Marvel movies?

How many miles do you use your trainers for until you replace them?

A weekend of cancellations

So despite the spring-like temperatures and beaming sun during the week, the weekend didn’t look good. Cold temperatures, bitter winds and potentially snow. Again.

I had the Reading Half Marathon planned for the Sunday but before that parkrun and afternoon tea with friends. I was originally going to go to Queen Elizabeth Country Park for a friend’s 100th but I’d forgotten it was Netley parkrun’s 6th birthday and I hadn’t been there I ages and wouldn’t be back there in ages so it only felt right to go there instead. I headed there early Saturday morning to help set-up the course, as I always used to, and realised I might have misjudged the shorts weather. It was COLD. The wind was so icy and as Netley is right next to the waterside, you really felt it.I was in my biggest coat and scarf, but yes shorts. My hands were cold despite their gloves. It was a rather miserable setting up process indeed. Despite the weather, it was nice to be back and see everyone again. There were several jokes made about who I was because I hadn’t been there in so long, but it was all in good fun.After we set-up I decided to be very anti-social and sit back in my car. I was just so cold. Eventually Mike pulled me out and we went for a quick warm-up (me still in my coat) and neither of us felt any warmer afterwards. Ah well. We then headed to the start.I was a little sad that the run director didn’t actually mention that it was Netley’s 6th birthday (or at least I certainly didn’t hear a mention). It was a shame considering I’d been to such a good 6th birthday the week before…ah well. There was still lots of cake afterwards. Avtually it was probably a good thing not to have a lengthy pre-run brief because it was so bloody cold!

I started running with Mike but he sadly had a hamstring issue so I ran ahead while he played it safe. I decided to push the speed as I was just so cold. I had planned on running an easy run but when it came down to it, I couldn’t bare to plod along in the cold. I felt like the effort level was quite high, despite my pace not being my fastest. The wind along the front and the two hills you have to do twice just dragged my pace down. That said, I do think it was one of my fastest Netley parkruns on the winter course so I’ll happily take that!

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

A lot of people were volunteering because of the Eastleigh 10k the next day (quite a popular flat 10k amongst the local clubs – I’ve never done it as I hate 10ks) so I managed to scrape first female. But like I said, a hollow victory considering so many females weren’t running. Hey ho! 21:42 and 18th place – high positioning due to lack of numbers!I finished, grabbed a cake and a photo and then it was quick time to put my coat and scarf back on! Brrr!I had a slice of rocky road which was delicious. Rocky road has to be up there with one of my absolute favourites. Not technically a cake I guess but just SO good. I could eat an obscene amount of it quite easily. After we packed up the course (how quickly you get back to being cold despite having run a 5k) we headed to the cafe for a hot drink. It was so nice to be back chatting away to the usual gang with a hot peppermint tea. But parkrun tourism is still a big priority for me right now! Gotta get those letters 😉

After parkrun I headed home, showered and had a lovely stodgy bowl of porridge. I was meant to be going to afternoon tea with some friends but sadly a couple of them had to cancel so we called it off. I was a bit down about this as it would have been nice to have seem them but they have kids so different life priorities. Fair enough. My sister was coming over that afternoon to see my parents so I asked if she wanted to go instead. Happily she was keen. And she’s NEVER been to afternoon tea before. I mean, what kind of a life is that??

We went to the Vintage Tea Rooms in Fareham and it was fantastic. I had brie and chicken sandwiches, a fruit scone with clotted cream and jam and a slice of salted caramel cake. This cake was the SAME cake I’d had the other week! I was chuffed because I knew how amazing it was.It was lovely to catch up with my sister, who I don’t get to see that often due to our working schedules and just life. But it was nice to swap gossip and have some serious girl talk… nothing beats girl talk like it does talking to your big sis 😉I actually thought she’d struggle with the afternoon tea. She doesn’t have a crazy appetite like me, but she polished the lot off! I was genuinely disappointed as I thought I might get half her cake…but alas, she hoovered it all up. I was very proud indeed. That evening I set my alarm for 7am… the plan was for my dad and I to leave for Reading for the half marathon at 7.30am ish. We were to be parked in a car park about 3 miles from the start. I was going to run a gentle warm up to the start so I wouldn’t be so cold at the start (the temperature was looking to be very chilly) and then my dad would see me at mile 5 and mile 11. Despite so many other races around the country being cancelled Reading Half was still saying they were going ahead…and then later that evening that they’d update us closer to the time.They were getting a lot of stick from people saying that they needed to know earlier to know whether they should travel there or not as they were coming from a far distance away (quite understandable). I checked my phone several times during the night and then when my alarm went off at 7am I saw they’d Tweeted that it was cancelled because of the heavy snowfall during the night. I checked my dad had seen it too and then promptly headed back to bed for another two hours sleep. I was disappointed yes but at the same time it made sense to cancel it.It was very snowy outside here in Fareham so it would have been unsafe for us to have tried to have traveled. I still needed to get my long run done so I walked Alfie to check the temperature and the ground… snowy but not slippy, very very cold with an icy wind. I forwent my original choice of shorts and decided to be sensible and wear leggings. Not only to keep my legs warm but also if I did slip over to save my skin. I don’t need more ugly scratches over my legs!
I went out with the ambition to run at least 13 miles. It was tough underfoot to begin with but otherwise I felt good. My legs didn’t feel that tired. I had a podcast on and just zoned out, stopping a couple of times to take some photos because everywhere looked so pretty. It was tough going though mentally… I’ve become used to running with other people so running solo for so long was a bit tough. But to be honest, I needed to do this as I won’t be running the marathon with anyone so.As the run continued I felt better and decided to go with 14-16 miles. I had a good long run route where I could add or take away miles as I went so I didn’t stress. Along with it being mentally hard work, I found the icy wind hard work as it pushed against me all along the sea front – where quite a chunk of my run was and also cold. My hands, despite the gloves, were cold. As I got to about 9 miles I decided to make it 17 miles so added on another loop and then headed on the road back. I felt good, though cold. Imagine if I’d have worn my shorts eh!As I got to 13 miles I decided to speed up. I wanted the run to be done and the road I was on was a good one to get the legs turning over. I amazed myself by hitting 7.29min/mile and then 7.22…and even 7mins! But then I turned the corner and hit the wind. But my effort level remained the same so I felt strong finishing despite my pace creeping back up to 7.19. I was certainly glad to finish though. I know had I run Reading I’d have probably run the 13 miles at a faster pace but I was happy to have added some solid tempo miles at the end of this run. I got home and decided immediately I needed a hot bath. My lovely mum made me a cup of tea and enjoyed a glorious hot and relaxing bubble bath. I massively overheated but after being cold for so long it felt like BLISS. I haven’t had a hot bath in so long. In fact, I made it so hot that when I stepped into it I immediately had to jump out as it was the temperature of lava. I’m clearly very rusty at running baths. I must have stayed in there for a solid 40 minutes. I was a bit light-headed as I got out though and suddenly ravenous. A hot bowl of porridge was exactly what I needed 😉
It was sad to not have run Reading but it was just unfortunately one of those things. I was excited about running a slightly different course and seeing where my fitness was at but at the end of the day it wasn’t meant to be. I feel for the organisers as it must have been such a stressful time and they now have 15,000 medals that are essentially worthless. What a shame. But, for me, I managed another solid long run! Mentally and physically tough with the conditions.

Have you had a race cancel before?

Do you like baths or showers? I prefer showers because my hair is impossible to wash in a bath.

Can you finish afternoon tea easily?

Things I’m loving lately – February/March

I’m sure I write the same thing every year but it’s so nice to be getting into spring. The lighter evenings and mornings… ahh bliss (well, when it isn’t snowing of course).

Bodum Coffee flask: I get up ridiculously early for the gym as you may be aware. It’s actually not that bad anymore. I genuinly enjoy my super early mornings and going to the gym. It’s part of my routine. I’m verrrry routine based and it just fits nicely. I’m an early bird and get decent sleep so it’s only the initial alarm going off that is tough and then I’m awake and raring to go.One of the things I look forward to is my coffee in the car on the way to the gym. While I take Alfie for a walk (in ALL the layers) I’ve put my coffee on and it’s ready by the time I get back. I take it with me on the drive (I use a straw so it’s easier/safer to drink whilst driving) and it’s just bliss. Especially when it’s super cold. The coffee flask I use is a Bodum Vacuum Travel Mug. It is perfect. It’s never leaked or spilt (even when I fill it to the top) and it doesn’t burn my hand to hold while keeping my coffee super hot.

R8 Roller: This isn’t mine. I’ve stolen borrowed it off a friend after Marathon Talk Run Camp.I would buy one myself but it’s from the States so there’s a high shipping cost added on to the actual cost of the product, making it well over £100. I’ve been wanting to try one of these for ages and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s fantastic for your quads and hamstring. Though it’s a bit more awkward on the calf because it also rolls the shin which is a little painful and the glutes are super awkward to do (I’ll stick to my tennis ball). But it’s SO good in terms of pressure and hitting trigger points. Love this.

Lava-Activ Hydration BeltI was sent this hydration belt to test out and review. It’s similar to a hydration belt I’ve used before and got on well. The only annoyance about my previous belt is that the bottles are TINY. During the summer I’d have to top them up mid-way through my long run at my “dodgy tap”. These (BPA-free!) bottles however are a bit bigger (2x 300ml), which is so much better.The belt sat nicely on my hips, didn’t chafe and didn’t bounce. The pocket  is big enough for a few gels, coins and keys or your phone (apparently iPhoner 8’s are fine). It’s not a massive pocket but it’s big enough for what you need!  There’s handily also a pocket divider to prevent items from rubbing against each other. There are also clips to attach a bib, but I’m not a huge fan of doing this.You can wear it either way I think, but I prefer the bottles at the back than the front. It’s predominately black, but the stripe on the pocket comes in three colours (orange, blue or green). You can buy the belt on Amazon.

Cake: OK two things about cake. Firstly, I had the most amazing cake a couple of weekends ago and it ROCKED my world.It was salted caramel flavour and it was divine. The icing was deliciously sticky. Ahhh to have that cake again…

And in other cake news… I’ve won one on Instagram!! I follow the very lovely Nicki Chan-Lam (@Nickichanlam on Instagram) who has a ridiculously huge appetite! And coming from me, that’s big. She posted a competition about a cake giveaway from the amazing bakery Whisk and Drizzle in London and my comment won! I mentioned that it was my mum’s 60th birthday in May. So I win a a Whisk and Drizzle cake which I can pick up when I’m in London (for my mum’s birthday). AMAZING AMAZING. Could I be any more excited?? (said in Chandler’s voice).

Cinema trips: I went to the cinema twice last week. I took my mum to see Finding Your Feet for a Mother’s Day (but not on Mother’s Day as I wasn’t there) treat and she loved it. I mean, it ticked all her boxes of what she loves in a film so I was super pleased she enjoyed it. I enjoyed the night, but the film wasn’t really my kind of thing. I feel for my dad really as that film will probably now be on repeat for the rest of his life. That along with Bridget Jones’ Diary and Mama Mia!

The second cinema trip was with my running friend Joe. Bless him, he cooked me a hearty sausage casserole and then we headed to the very fancy Showcase cinema in Southampton. WITH RECLINING LEATHER CHAIRS. It was epically comfortable. We saw Shape of Water which was so good. It was very dream-like and gentle…you had to let yourself get swept along with it. It was very romantic and I just loved it.

Alfie: And because Alfie hasn’t been featured on the blog in a while, here he is in all his cutness.My heart just melts.

Running: I completely forgot to mention this in my last post, but when I was at the Walsall Arboretum parkrun on Saturday I noticed a woman signing the run director’s instructions. How good is that! I’ve never seen that before but I thought it was such a fantastic idea. Typical parkrun eh being so inclusive and thoughtful 😉

And this weekend is the Reading Half Marathon! I’m quite excited (despite hearing horrible rumours about how cold it’s going to be…please no more snow).I won’t be going for a PB as I’m not in that shape but I will give it a good go I think. I’m in a good place with my running, no niggles (EVERYONE TOUCH WOOD PLEASE) and I feel strong. It’ll be nice to see where I’m at in terms of putting some faster paces on for a long run. We shall see…

What are you loving lately?

Have you been to the cinema recently?

Do you foam roll?

**Full Disclosure: I was sent the belt for free in exchange for a post on Instagram. All opinions are my own honest ones.**