Thing I’m loving lately – June

*Whispers* I don’t want to speak too soon, but I have had a pretty decent streak of running uninjured.

I mean I had a blip after Tokyo with my ankle, but after a week off I was good to go again. It’s kind of all going…dare I say it, OK??Two marathons and now onto my next bout of marathon training, please let it continue to go as smoothly!

So as I’m in a pretty good mood with my running, I thought I’d continue these happy vibes with some things I’m loving lately.

The new series of My Dad Wrote A Porno podcast: If you’ve never heard of it or think it sounds weird, you really just need to give it a go. It is HILARIOUS. Like actual laugh out loud comedy. I binge listened to the first two series and now they’ve just started the third series. They have fans such as Daisy Ridley, Elijah Wood, Michael Sheen. I can’t recommend it enough.

Dogs of parkrun: I love how many dogs come out to parkrun. Not all of them run, but it’s lovely to see them ‘supporting’. I took a photo of some of the ones I saw at Netley at the weekend and made a collage.All so lovely. I know that dogs at races/parkrun can be annoying but I’m a big dog lover so to me I’m happy to have to dodge around them and their leads. I’d love to run with Alfie but I’m worried that as he’s a bit older (almost eight!) it might not be a good idea. He’s never run further than half a mile so I’d need to start very slowly with him, which at the moment I don’t really have time for. He loves racing about on his own though.

SIS products: I really love these products I’ve been sent. I don’t actually take the Overnight Protein Powder in the evening as it suggests but I have it in my porridge every morning (about 15g). I like to boost my porridge in this way to get some added protein and it adds a nice chocolate taste. It really isn’t overwhelming sweet.They suggest taking the protein powder in the evening due to the casein content (80% casein and 20% whey from the milk protein). Casein works while you’re asleep, stimulating muscle protein synthesis. It’s low in fat and carbs as well. Like I said, I like how subtle the chocolate taste is so it goes really nicely in my porridge (I add it to the oats before I microwave it). I’m not a huge fan of overly sweet porridge. It also makes a nice hot chocolate as well when mixed with hot water!

And as I’ve mentioned previously, I love the Go Caffeine Shots. These are going to become pre-race staples for me. I’d normally have a cup of black coffee before a race but I hate drinking too much liquid. This shot is only 60ml so is perfect, so I can still hydrate well with water.

The tropical flavour is definitely my favourite over the cola flavour though. The cola one is just a bit too sharp/sour.

Having a clear out: My drawers are currently bulging with the amount of fitness clothes and race t-shirts I own so I decided to have a clear out. I donated a load of tops from races that I wasn’t too bothered about (really old 10ks) and then separated t-shirts I wanted to keep but would no longer wear, such as marathon t-shirts.

I’ve decided at the end of the year I’ll get a blanket made up of my race tops as a nice way to keep the t-shirts and remember the race. I’ve found this website that does it. It’s expensive, which is why I’m waiting until the end of the year so I can add (HOPEFULLY) a few more shirts to it.

I’d like to do something with my bibs as well (I always save them as well as my medals) but I’m not sure what at the moment. A friend of mine put them on his wall and that looked cool, but I don’t really have the space. Maybe a big scrapbook or something.

What do you do with your race t-shirts and bibs?

Do you use any SIS products?

Do you have long running streaks or are you injury prone like me?

**Full Disclaimer: I’ve been sent the SIS products for free to test out for a review on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

parkrun, long running and a natural body polish review

This weekend was a really quiet one. I had no plans for once and it was a great time to catch up on house chores and jobs and have a chilled weekend.

I went to Netley parkrun on the Saturday morning. It was a warm morning but windy. I took Alfie along again with me. Now that it’s summer it’s so nice to be able to bring him so he can have a good run about while we set the course up. I don’t always bring him with me to parkrun though because I have to have someone to look after him while I run. My running friend Mike has been bringing his daughter, Kelci, to parkrun lately and she enjoys looking after Alfie, which is very helpful.I always feel so mean leaving Alfie at home while I go off running on a Saturday morning, especially when the weather’s so nice. So I’m very grateful for Kelci helping out! They’re planning on getting a dog of their own so it’s good practice.

I headed to the loo for a quick pre-parkrun pee to find a gathering of people and locked toilets. The person who normally unlocks them was late. Suddenly my desire for a wee intensified, purely on the basis that I might not be able to relieve myself! One of the parkrun regulars, an older and lovely lady, stated rather elegantly that she was “off to find herself a bush”. She said it in such a dignified and polite way it made me chuckle. Luckily though it wasn’t that much longer before the caretaker showed up with the keys. Whew!

And then onto the start and a squinty selfie.The sun was shining and I was fancying a time of around 22-23 minutes. With the wind and temperature I knew realistically breaking 22 minutes wasn’t going to happen, especially after having quite a heavy week of running for me (the intervals on Tuesday and a nine miler with my friend on Thursday evening). As soon as I started running I knew I should have had a warm-up. Why don’t I ever learn? Trying to run fast straight from the start never works and I feel terrible on mile one. It wasn’t hugely busy as the Endure 24 event in Reading was on and a lot of my club and other local clubs were doing it. The Isle of Wight Festival was on as well.I got stronger and felt better as the run continued thankfully (which is why I should warm up!). I waved to Kelci and Alfie on the way round, not that Alfie took a blind bit of notice as he was having far too much fun sniffing and playing with Kelci.The photographer, Chris Stapleford, took all the running photos this week so a big thank you to him. He said to me afterwards that I was one of the few runners that consistently smiled all the way round. Well, I don’t know quite about that as every photo I seem to be looking very serious!!In the end I got 22:05 which I’m chuffed with (damn those 6 seconds though…).Netley parkrun always seems to be a bit short on the Garmin because we go into the trees for a bit of it and it messes with the satellite. We’ve been reassured it’s accurate after several times measuring the course but it does annoy me when Strava thinks it’s 3 or 2.9 miles.

My running friend, Kate, was running with a buggy and she mentioned afterwards how she finds it annoying when people overtake her, cut in front and then slow down right in front of the buggy. I never really considered what running with a buggy would be like and it was interesting to hear Kate’s perspective. I always tend try to get past buggies as it can be annoying to get stuck behind one but Kate’s a fast runner so it must be very frustrating when people will assume she’s slow and just hurry past and then slow down again in front of her simply because she has a buggy. I know it bugs me when people do it to me on the motorway. If you’re going to overtake, maintain that speed afterwards!

I munched on two cookies afterwards (I do love it when it’s someone’s milestone!) and helped clear the course. Another solid parkrun complete.

The next day I had a long run planned with Mike and Kate, aiming for around 13 miles. As I’ve said before, I’m really enjoying running with others and obviously running with Mike is good training as we’ll be running the New Forest Marathon together eventually (me pacing him).

Happily we met at the very socially friendly time of 9am (I like my 8am lie-ins on a Sunday!). It was a very warm morning so we all took water with us. We stuck to around 9 min/miles which felt comfortable but not as comfortable as it might have felt on a cooler day.Annoyingly I stopped my Garmin and saved it again when we crossed for some lights. SO annoying. The route we took is a really boring and annoying route, one I only do if I’m running with others. It becomes more undulating in the later part of the run which is never fun. But it did the job. For Mike to get a sub-4 we need to be running around 9 minute miles for the marathon, though the plan is to start a bit slower than this and pick it up later. I think he found the run quite tough but we’ve only really just started marathon training and it was a very hot day. Plus I think we’re both conscious of how we run the day before at parkrun will definitely have an effect on the next day’s running, so that’s something to bare in mind going forward.

And now onto a review of a body polish I’ve recently been using. When it comes to cosmetics and skincare I’m somewhat…lacklustre? I don’t really have a “routine”. I used to be really good about cleansing and toning, but now? Eh…not so much. I just can’t be bothered. I’m lucky to have good skin (asides from the occasional spot now and again) and I don’t wear make-up so really I don’t do much else than wash with water. When it comes to the shower I just use a shower gel.

I find though I do get a bit of dry skin on my legs so moisturise those after showering. So when I heard about the Beauty Kitchen’s Inspire Me Brightening & Toning Body Polish I was quite intrigued. I’ve found in the past exfoliating can help with my dry skin and this sounded like a really nice product. It contains minerals and naturals oils for detox, exfoliation and rejuvenation. It’s also never tested on animals and suitable for vegans.I use a scoop of it when I’m in the shower and basically rub it all over my legs in a circular motion. You can feel the grainy texture of it working with (against?) your skin as you do so. Then I shower it off. It does take some showering to get it off though as it is quite oily but afterwards my legs felt so silky! And the smell is heavenly. I don’t use it every time I shower because who has time for that!? But I try and use it once every two or three days and honestly it feels quite indulgent.My only annoyance is that it leaves little black flecks in my shower that I then have to use the shower head to wash away. But it’s worth it as my legs are super shiny!  It’s available from Holland & Barrett at £14.99, which is quite pricey (especially for someone who leans towards the cheaper shower gels…). But you only need a small scoop each time so I can see this lasting me a while. I love how natural the product is too. Thumbs up!

How was your weekend?

Do you have a skincare regime?

Do you have routes you’ll only run with other people on?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the body polish for free in exchange for a review on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

A weekend of running and vegan food

I know, vegan food and me. I’m like the biggest meat-eater and meat-lover alive…but first let’s start with parkrun.

I was back at Netley parkrun this Saturday which was nice. The weather was lovely, though there were some loitering dark clouds overhead which thankfully didn’t come to anything during our time there.I helped with set-up as usual. We were on the summer course…three laps with three hills, oh joy. I actually don’t mind this course as it breaks up the running monotony that can come with a flat course.I’ve recently been sent some SIS products to test out so I thought it the ideal occasion to test out their new caffeine shots. I gave one to my friend, Mike, as well for him to try. We toasted to a good parkrun and downed the 60ml shot.I had the tropical flavour, which has a very sweet and sour flavour to it. It contains 150mg of caffeine so a hefty dose for such a small bottle. I really like the taste of these (though they are quite sour) and I’m keen to test it out in other scenarios, like pre-races and pre-early morning gym sessions when I need a kick up the backside.

Photo credit: Chris Stapleford

I did feel, whether psychologically or physically, ready to hit the ground running at the start. I gave it my best but it was tough having become so used to the flatter courses. The hill kind of breaks your flow a bit but I do prefer a three lap course and mentally it’s a lot more interesting.My time was 21:30. I gave it a good effort and with the hills I’m quite happy with this time. Though looking back the last time I was on the Netley summer course I got 21:38 so the progress isn’t that great! I’m not too bothered about parkrun times in general but it’s nice to keep track of my times and see progress being made. I do feel that my running has become somewhat lazy recently though. I will run the majority of my runs all the same pace. I need to get back into doing some speed work if I do want to get a bit faster. Maybe once every two weeks? That’s the intention anyway.After parkrun, and scoffing down half a large slice of cake that my friend’s daughter was eating (she needed help, I was more than happy to assist!) I headed home to get ready to head out to have coffee with my mum, dad, sister, her fiance and my nieces.We had a lovely coffee and then mooched around the shops. I got some nice pieces from H&M, including a £7 leather jacket! I don’t actually understand why it was so cheap and thought it was marked up incorrectly. There’s nothing wrong with it but I won’t argue with the price! I now have a good outfit sorted for my birthday trip to London next month with my girlfriends. Whoop whoop!

I’d planned to do a long run from my parent’s house the next day, around 10-13 miles, but then via my running club Facebook group I heard a couple of people heading out at 9am for around 10 miles which sounded perfect. It’s always nicer to run with other people so I tagged on with them.

I’m so glad I did as the miles just fly by when you’re with company as you’re chatting away. Also I didn’t have to think about the route as they already had something planned. It was a lovely route through Manor Farm, which is a local park/woodland area with lots of off-road trails and a couple of hills.

Unfortunately one of the guys felt ill and decided to stop at 4 miles. After checking he was OK and him pushing us to carry on, we continued on. It was just the two of us then, a lovely lady from the running club and myself, and it was just such a nice run, both in company and the route.

After the run I rushed back home to shower and get ready to head out to meet my lovely friend, April. She’s a fellow blogger who’s mum lives in Southampton so was down for the week. We’ve been meaning to catch up and she knew of a very cool-sounding vegan restaurant, Off Beet in Wickham. I’ve seen her numerous Instagram posts for this cafe but have never been myself so it seemed like the opportune moment.Located in the old mill, it’s quite hidden away. It’s a small set-up, with only a few tables so booking is necessary, and the menu is quite small but everything is home-made and beautifully presented. I was quite hungry by this point so I was won over by the beetroot burger with polenta chips.

It was really tasty. The burger was made up primarily of beetroot with lots of vegetables and salady bits in a portobello mushroom “bun”. There was also cashew cheese on the burger! The sauce was a home-made sugar-free BBQ sauce with polenta chips.It was very tasty (like like the plate tasty) but I wasn’t quite full afterwards. You know me, big appetite and all that. Thankfully April is the same so we decided pudding was a necessity.

We both had the brownie cheesecake (yes, still vegan!) and I went for a 70% hot chocolate made with almond milk. WOWZA. Rocked. My. World.It was so creamy and tasty. Not hugely sweet like a Cheesecake Factory cheesecake but sweet enough to be very yummy indeed. This certified meat-eater approves! See, I can forgo meat occasionally 😉

It was a lovely afternoon catching up with April (both of us discussing all things running and our wanderlust desires of travelling and seeing the world…). And the sun was shining which just made it perfect.

Do you enjoy vegan food?

Have you ever tried a caffeine shot?

Do you do intervals or speed work regularly?

Lee-On-Solent parkrun and a kebab fuelled long run

This weekend I was still at my parent’s house. I thought I’d hate this week of living at my parent’s but actually, aside from not being able to go to the gym in the morning and the 30 minutes extra on my commute (1.5 hours to work!) it’s actually been really nice.

I can’t exactly put my finger on why. Perhaps it’s the ease of walking Alfie (just walk out the front door rather than go up and down two flights of stairs), the larger space and more rooms, the garden and I suppose the general familiarity and comforts of my childhood home.

That said, I am looking forward to going back to my flat though. There is something so lovely about having your own space and independence. And a shorter commute…As my parent’s live in Stubbington the closest parkrun is Lee-On-Solent so I decided to go there on Saturday as a bit of a change. It was their 100th parkrun birthday as well so it seemed quite fitting. A bit of a lie-in as well was nice as it meant I didn’t need to leave as early as it’s so close.I decided to park 1.5 miles away so I could run there as a bit of a warm-up to wake the legs up. Clearly LoS parkrun is a popular one! The start area got very busy as 9am drew closer. Gosport Road Runners had “taken over” for the week so there were lots of yellow shirts all over the place. There was also a pacing event. A friend I knew through social media, Ben, was running 21 minutes and had suggested I run with him as I wanted to break it again this week, like I had last week.

I’m in the red t-shirt

I wasn’t entirely sure whether sticking with a pacer was a good idea as I like to run at my own pace. I tend to start slower and get faster and I wasn’t sure I wanted to give over my pacing control to someone else, as nice as Ben is!

I lined up near him anyway, fairly near the front as it gets ridiculously busy at the start and as I was aiming for a particular time I wanted to give myself the best opportunity. It worked out well as, though it was busy, I was able to have no issues at the start with dodging round people or being hemmed in.

I lost Ben immediately. He started so quickly. In my opinion, far too quickly! I was looking at my watch and it was between 6.40-45min/miles so I can’t imagine how fast he was running to suddenly be quite a distance ahead. I was glad I hadn’t stuck with him. I’m not even sure I could have anyway. (I spoke to him afterwards and he says he always tries to start quickly…).

So I kept to myself and focused on keeping my legs going. I felt strong but it was tough. This was proper full effort being put it. The wind was somewhat favourable on the first mile, but as we turned around it was slightly against us so this added to the pain. Somehow I was able to gain a little bit more speed as the parkrun continued and when we made the other turnaround to head back to the finish I was able to push on, now with the physically and psychological help of the wind. There’s one ramp you have to run up and down and as you come down the other side you can see the finish ahead. I looked at my watch and saw 20:30. I knew I’d never get to the finish under 21 minutes. It was just too far. But I kept up the pace and sprinted to the end. My time was 21:15 and I’m happy with that. I couldn’t have pushed any harder.Though it wasn’t a sub-21, I do think I ran faster than last week at Netley. When I compare my splits I run slightly faster each mile. As with all parkruns this could be due to the courses being slightly different lengths. Alternatively it could be GPS error on either one so who really knows! Either way I’m more than happy with my fairly consistent running right now.After finishing and chatting with some people I knew (and a lovely and speedy blog reader – hello Graham!), I headed to the tail runner to walk with my friend, Rebecca, who was doing her first ever parkrun. Rebecca actually has volunteered like a zillion times but only recently decided to give doing one a try. She did amazingly! She was chatting away as she was walking and looked quite comfortable. I told her it would only get harder now as the next time she did one she’d need to beat this time 😉 Huge well done to her, she’s a star and a lovely, lovely person.

Then we surveyed the cake selection… of which was SO impressive.There were so many different kinds of cakes, from cup cakes, to brownies, to lemon sponges, Victoria sponges… And the amazing parkrun cake!As much as I wanted to fill my boots with ALL THE CAKE, I decided to play it sensible and not have anything as I still needed to run 1.5 miles back to the car. I know, I know, who even am I!?The run back felt harder than the run there, for obvious reasons, but it was nice to shake my legs out a bit. As I got closer to the car rain started to drip down and I literally just made it into the car before a downpour began!

After a day of odd jobs and a lovely coffee catch-up with a friend, I headed to my friend’s house for a girl’s evening. I had my second take-away of the weekend…! I hadn’t planned on two take-aways but I’d promised myself an Indian for Friday night and the girl’s night with a cheeky take-away was only planned at the last minute. So I switched it up and had a kebab. I haven’t had a kebab in YEARS.And as takeaways go, it wasn’t the worst thing I could have had. Pizzas and fish and chips tend to rank quite badly in terms of “overall unhealthiness” due to their carb and fat content, not to mention salt. Fair enough the quantity of kebab I had was not what you’d class as a healthy meal (go big or go home…always my mantra unfortunately) but if I’d have gone for a slightly smaller one, my chicken shish and kofta kebab with a pitta bread and salad was actually a fairly OK meal in the great take-away universe. Though it was still fairly salty and the meat quality probably wasn’t that great. It tasted insanely good though.

But anyway, we enjoyed a nice evening in with food, chatting and a good film. It was a late night but I decided to treat myself to a lie-in the next morning. I actually slept until 9.30am! (Though I did have to get up at 5am to let the dogs out…).

I woke up not feeling like my long run at all but decided to just head out for six miles and see how I felt. Ideally I wanted 10-12 but I felt so lethargic and unmotivated that I didn’t think that would happen.

Heading out after 10am on a very sunny and warm day wasn’t entirely wise, but I tucked a £2 coin in my sports bra just in case I needed water. I listened to a new favourite podcast (My Dad Wrote A Porno… if you haven’t heard it, you really must. It’s literally laugh out loud funny). The first few miles were about as horrific as I’d envisaged. I had heavy legs, I felt overly hot and I just wanted to be at home. But as I hit the fourth mile I started to get into it. I lost myself in the podcast and found the miles flew by. I did need to stop at a petrol station for water but otherwise I felt pretty strong. I finished with 11 miles and feeling good. Mind games really do work 😉Strava tells me I last ran this route in January 2016 and depressingly I ran it a lot quicker (7:51min/mile average compared to my average of 8:17min/mile). But it is what it is. Progress to be made! I felt good at the end and that’s what counts in my eyes. Afterwards I attempted a selfie in the garden, which kind of didn’t work as the dogs wanted to get involved 😉It did make me laugh though!

Hope you had a nice weekend too 🙂

What did you get up to?

What’s your take-away of choice?

How do you get yourself motivated for a long run?

Finally a sub-21 parkrun and the Lavender Tea Rooms

On Saturday morning I headed to Netley parkrun as per usual. For the second week in a row it was the cricket pitch course.

The cricket pitch is only used when the other field has an event going on. The course is 5.5 laps of a cricket pitch so has been named as the “Marmite Course” because though it’s super flat, it’s very dull and mentally a tough run. It’s great if you’re going for a fast time, but the enjoyment factor is low because it’s so monotonous. It’s also actually quite tough to remember how many laps you’ve done!

It’s recently been slightly amended to ensure it’s an accurate course as previously it’s measured about 130 metres short. I intended on giving it my best that morning but when I ran across the field to the store cupboard to help with getting the signs and cones out to set the course up (I was running late…) my legs felt heavy. I felt myself immediately back-tracking on my desire to beat last week’s time (21:38).The good thing about the cricket pitch is that it takes far less time to set everything up so this gave me a bit more time to actually do a proper warm-up (well, one lap of the cricket pitch) and get me more in confident frame of mind. The weather was also fairly cool and sunny but with a slight breeze. So conditions were good!

My friend, Mike, also wanted to aim for a good time and though we’re around the same times at the moment I decided to run with my music. I know Mike likes to go like a bat out of hell at the start whereas I’m now more of a “builder upper”. I didn’t want to toast my energy right at the start. There were pacers as well which was good but I knew I needed to run my own game rather than depend on someone else.

Though I’d had limited confidence earlier that morning, as soon as we started and my music got playing it was like I had an injection of energy. I no longer felt heavy or slow. At around half a mile I checked my pace and saw I was running around 7 minutes. To beat last week’s time I knew I needed to stay there abouts around this speed to get under 21:38. The pace felt tough but not impossibly so so I just hung on and kept going. I saw the sub-22 pacer ahead and slowly pushed ahead of him as the laps went on.

Photo credit: Chris Stapleford

This photo makes me laugh because it looks like I’m side-eyeing the photographer. I really wasn’t in a “let’s wave and smile” kind of zone!

I started confusing myself with how many laps I’d done, despite keeping count on my fingers. I didn’t know whether I needed to do 5 laps then finish or 5 laps then another to finish. Basically my brain felt a bit addled with the exertion!

Photo credit: Chris Stapleford

OK I lied, I did do a bit of smiling. Sort of! I felt myself gaining in confidence as I overtook people. Sadly I overtook my friend Chris who is usually so much faster than me who wasn’t having a good run. He’s been aiming for a sub -20 for a few weeks and by rights should be there but it just hasn’t panned out yet. I also noticed Mike a fair way behind me – I wondered if he was having a “bad” run like Chris (it turned out he too didn’t have the parkrun he wanted unfortunately).

Photo credit: Chris Stapleford

And the pain was setting in now… I worked out from my time and who was in front when I’d be heading to the finish and just pushed through the last bit. As I crossed the line and stopped my watched I was shocked to see 20:57. A 20!!! I haven’t seen one of those in a good long while.And a negative split! I just prayed and prayed that my official parkrun time would be sub-21 too…After finishing I immediately laid down to catch my breath. I gave everything and I’m really proud of myself. I feel myself getting more and more back in good shape. I just hope I don’t get injured. To be honest though, I’m just loving running at the moment. parkrun times naturally coming down is such a bonus, but just running without issues is literally the best thing ever right now. And the email later from parkrun confirmed that I did indeed get 21:57, and second female! Not too shabby 🙂 Injury free and a speedy time (for me)!

I felt buoyed for the rest of the day and fully enjoyed some tasty treats for lunch at the New Forest Lavender Tea Rooms with my parents.I ordered a cheese scone with a salad, followed by a Mint Aero rocky road slice and a pot of tea. It was divine! If you’re ever in the New Forest area, you must go to the Lavender Farm as it’s such a beautiful place. A small garden centre with an absolutely fantastic tea room serving home-baked treats and delicious light bites.My cheese scone was absolutely SUPERB. Warm, crumbly and delicately cheesy without being overwhelmingly so. My Mint Aero rocky road was obviously divine as well. My dad ordered a Lavender scone with cream and jam and only ate half (he’s being so good with his healthy eating) so I got to nibble on the rest. You could taste the lavender but it was a nice subtle taste rather than being overpowering or strange. All round delicious!We had a mosey round the garden centre and then headed off to Beaulie for a little walk and more moseying round another garden centre and little shops (so quintessentially British right? Looking round garden centres in spring after tea and cakes).It was a lovely way to spend a sunny day! And to prepare me for Tough Mudder the next day which I had only found out I was doing only on Thursday…

Do you prefer a savoury or sweet scone?

What’s your parkrun goal?

How did you spend your weekend?