My goals for the London Marathon

Well, I tell you what if it wasn’t for social media I think I would have just completely forgotten that it’s the London Marathon in a few days. Ha! On a serious note though, it’s so nice to see so many people doing it. So many from my club, so many people I’m friends with on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook… just lots of friendly faces. Well, let’s be honest, most people running it are likely to be super friendly because they’re runners ūüėČI guess this should be the post where I say what my goals are for running the London Marathon. Hmmm. Survive uninjured. No change from usual I guess! I hope to get around 3:45 but under that would be nice. It really depends on the weather, the crowds and how I feel. The Tokyo Marathon gave me the confidence to know I can run around 8 minute/miles without a huge amount of solid training… but then I was fresher and hadn’t run a marathon a couple of months previously.

It’s all a guessing game with a marathon. Nothing is set in stone. There are SO many external factors along with the internal factors. It’s such a long, long way… you only have to look at a whole host of marathon mile splits on Strava to see people doing absolutely fine, running nice and consistently, to then suddenly gain an extra minute + per mile after half-way or 16 miles or whatever. ANYTHING can happen. Nutrition issues, an¬†injury, a niggle, a mental burp, exhaustion due to bad race strategy, pacing or just plain old fitness.Basically, my first and foremost marathon mantra for anyone and everyone is: RESPECT THE MARATHON. Otherwise it will eat you up and spit you out. You could argue that my not-so-great training and clustering of marathons isn’t quite respecting the marathon…but I’m aware of this and aware of my capabilities. I’m not going to take off at the start like a loony. I mean, I imagine I won’t be able to anyway as it’ll be so busy but in an ideal world I have a list of paces I want to target (i.e. not go faster than) for the first 10 miles, the second 10 miles and then the final 10k will be “see how you feel” as to whether I step it up (unless I’m crawling at that point…).

So, even though I’m not entirely “marathon ready”, I do have a sensible plan and some realistic goals:

  • Remain uninjured
  • Have fun (“fun” is questionable here of course, but fun relative to, say, getting impaled on a big stick and/or getting fired and becoming destitute)
  • See someone famous (ideally I’d love to see Adele from the Early Morning Breakfast show on BBC Radio1, she literally makes my 5.30am gym visits bearable and she’s running London as her first marathon)
  • Time of 3:45(ish)
  • If that fails, sub-4.

So there we go. I won’t lie. I mostly want to meet someone famous ūüėČ I’ll be THAT annoying person wanting a selfie…I just can’t work out if I’d have the guts to do it while running. Maybe sneakily…

Tomorrow I’m off to London with my mum. I managed to convince her to join me going to the London Marathon Expo to collect my bib by postponing¬†Mother’s Day celebrations until then. After a morning Expo visit I’m treating her to lunch at Jamie’s 15.

Then it gets a bit mad as my mum goes back home on the train while I meet a friend to go with her on the train to Brighton. I’ll spend the¬†day in Brighton with her on the Saturday, to then get the train¬†back to my parent’s house that afternoon. Then I’ll be coaching it up to London stupidly early with my dad on Sunday morning with some other local runners. Wahay I must be mad!!

Huge good luck to everyone running London, or Southampton (10k/half/marathon) and everything else going on!

Currently – March

Thursday, hurrah!¬†Or as I like to call it…Friday Eve ūüėČ Here’s a little update of how things are currently going for me.

Running: TOUCH WOOD, TOUCH WOOD IMMEDIATELY. Things are actually going OK. I am tired and feeling the effects of continued marathon training but my marathon training in comparison to others is kind of weak. No 50+ miles a week going on over here. But that said, I am running consistently and attempting the longer runs at the weekend.

What I’m really pleased about is the run I did last week¬†after work. I picked a reasonably flat route (which is tricky given I work in Basingstoke Amazingstoke). I didn’t intentionally set off to run fast but I did want to do some fartleks so I popped on some motivating music (“banging tunes” some might say, I would never say that…out-loud/in public). As I started running my legs suddenly felt pretty good so I went with it. And consequently ran my fastest 5k in almost two years. TWO YEARS (to be precise, since July¬†2015 20:43, at Little Stoke parkrun).I was so in the zone that an elderly man cycled past me and said “you go girl!”. I stopped my watch exactly at 3.1 miles and couldn’t believe the time! OK not my fastest and still over a minute off my PB but for not having done any real speedwork lately, I WILL TAKE THAT.And happily, a royal flush negative split. Pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. And this has encouraged me to do one speed session a week. So last night I headed out to do a speed session (my intention was some 1km repeats with a couple of minutes rest between) but my legs went “nope” so I decided to do hills instead. Four hills (0.3 miles long, 11% gradient)…ooof. I do prefer hills though because even when you’re not feeling it, it’s still a good workout for your legs despite not actually going that fast. So mentally I can deal with it.

Books: I’m a keen reader so I’m always reading a book. When I finish one I move on to another. I usually read before I go to sleep to chill me out and with my breakfast in the morning (#nerd) so I can get through them fairly quickly. I signed up to BookBub.com¬†(NOT an affiliated link, just a random recommendation) and you get emailed about discounted e-books around the web so I often take advantage of that. I rarely ever buy a book over ¬£4. Anyway, I’ve just finished The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult.

It was fantastic. I love Jodi Picoult. She has such a great way of writing. This was really thought-provoking and I didn’t know how it’d end.

Before that I read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.Whenever a film comes out that is based on a book I’m always prompted to go and read the book if it takes my fancy. This book was quite short but sad. I was literally crying into my porridge one morning reading it. But a good story.

Gym nutrition:¬†I’ve been trying a new BCAA drink¬†from¬†Sci-Vation. I fancied a change from my usual BSN Amino X Intra-Workout.

I chose this because it contains no proprietary blend (which is a supplementary company’s way of cost cutting because they don’t have to state the dosage of the ingredients within the blend and you’ll likely be fobbed off with an ineffective dose to have any real effect) and¬†7 grams of BCAAs (a 2:1:1 ratio of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine; plus an additional 2.5g of glutamine per scoop¬†and 1g of Citrulline Malate) and 1.1 gram of electrolytes. Basically, a good BCAA drink! It’s more expensive, but more effective. And it tastes DELICIOUS. I use it during my fasted gym visits.

Slow cooker fun: I’ve been back on the old slow cooker wagon again.My meals are verrrrry basic but it’s so nice to come in to a home smelling of food and having dinner ready. LAtely I’ve been throwing in chicken drumsticks and thighs with butter squash chunks and other veg and just adding some basic seasonings and spices, like paprika, garlic, fish sauce (trust me, it works), Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.

Quickly back to running quickly, this week has been feeling tough (probably because I’ve suddenly started doing speedwork again and did a fairly tough 16 miler on Sunday…oh and I ran a marathon last month!). I don’t feel injured but I do feel worn out. I am “meant” to run a long run on Friday morning (as I’m away this weekend) but I’m just thinking it’s not going to happen. I’d rather turn up to London undertrained and than overtrained (or injured) so I’m probably going to skip it. Listening to my body and all that ūüėČ I might be able to get out Sunday afternoon when I’m back but I won’t cry about it if I don’t. And it depends how I feel!

Do you use a slow cooker?

What book have you read recently?

What signs tell you when to take some rest from working out?

Caffeine and me

I recently bought a coffee machine. I never thought I would. I mean, I’m not really one of those OMG I NEED COFFEE TO FUNCTION type of people.

If I don’t have caffeine in a day then I’m generally OK. It’s just habit and the enjoyment factor as to why I regularly drink it. I don’t start shaking¬†or fading through the day or get headaches.

At work it’s a way to get away from the desk and keep me from endlessly snacking on #allthefood in the office. I’ll have a black instant coffee, and thoroughly enjoy it. At the weekend I’d treat myself to something a bit more elaborate at Starbucks, but more because it’s a fun drink to enjoy. I’m that person who has an obnoxious order… half decaf half caf medium Americano with sugar free hazelnut syrup and hot skimmed milk. Why half and half? Because I do like to limit caffeine where I can (and sugar…). I don’t want to become dependent on it and I like to use caffeine in big races to inject some speed into my legs. I don’t want my tolerance level to become skewed.

So why did I get a coffee machine then? Well, I was finding that my Starbucks weekend habit was fairly costly over the year (my drink is around ¬£2.40, so around a fiver a week). In the back of my cupboard I found a milk frother that I’d never used and found I could heat up almond milk and froth it nicely to add to my coffee. I also bought my own sugar-free hazelnut syrup from Amazon, because I’m fancy like that ūüėČ And literally it’s like Starbucks in my kitchen!I’ve also been drinking a pre-workout before the gym which contains quite a high dose of caffeine (~240mg) and I didn’t want to keep buying it – though I enjoy using it from time to time because it has other added benefits. I do enjoy feeling a bit more awake before the gym so didn’t want to give up entirely on caffeine.So with a coffee machine I could dictate how much coffee I had (and whether it was caffeinated or not) and reduce my coffee/pre-workout expenditure. Killing two birds with one stone.

After a lengthy time wondering what type to buy (most people advising on the very cool looking Nespresso machines) I eventually just settled for a simple coffee maker.

The problem with the Nespresso machines (and the pod coffee makers in general) is that the size of the drink you get is quite small. And I didn’t really want anything too fancy first thing in the morning. Also the pods themselves were expensive, so defeating the point of trying to save money. I wanted a proper MUG of coffee that was cheap and easy to use.So I bought this very cheap Russell Hobs Brew and Go machine¬†from Amazon (around ¬£27.99 – this isn’t a sponsored post by the way!). It comes with a travel cup and basically you can dictate how much coffee you put in and how much water you use. Perfect!

Some people give caffeine a bad rep or just avoid it for their own reasons and that’s fine. Everyone to themselves. But I know that a little bit of caffeine before the gym or before a race can really help my performance. It’s a legal supplement to take and it’s cheap. But if I didn’t have my cup of coffee before a race it wouldn’t panic me. I do parkrun and long runs every week without coffee and perform just fine. Perhaps it’s psychological then that I see these performance gains… who knows. What I¬†do know is, I enjoy coffee and enjoy feeling more awake at 5.30am before I hit the gym.

What are your thoughts on coffee and caffeine in general?

If you drink coffee, how do you take it?

Do you have a coffee machine?

Orlando food recap and how much weight I gained

Now if you’re anything like me, it’s all about the food on holiday. And when it comes to holiday recaps, I want to know ALL about it. So here we go. Get ready to feel a little bit hungry ūüėČ

I’ll also preface this with saying that I pretty much ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and lots of it. I wanted to include my weight into this post because I want to reassure people that it is completely NORMAL to gain weight on holiday. You’re eating completely different foods and you’re on holiday so there’s lots of treats and eating out.

During a normal week I’ll probably eat out once or twice¬†(usually with pudding). I’ll eat treats through the week but in general I’m quite healthy and routine-based in what I eat Monday to Friday. I like what I eat and I don’t restrict myself any food but in general, yes, I eat fairly healthily.

So going to Orlando and eating everything was bound to have an effect. And I was fully aware of this and quite happy with that eventual outcome. I love food and I didn’t want to come home with any regrets about what I DIDN’T eat, not about what I did eat. Food is a big part of what I love and how I like to spend time with people (as it is for Kate & Jamie who I went with) and it was a major part of why the holiday was AMAZING. And on that note…

Starting with the absolute breakfast must for me before a holiday, the usual fry-up affair at the airport.Gatwick South doesn’t have a great amount of choice (and no Jamie’s Italian, which I think does the best fry-up) but we had a fantastic meal at¬†Grain Store Caf√© & Bar. Though I dislike the baked bean contamination going on!

Anyway, onto actual Orlando food. The first night (being five hours ahead it was like ridiculous o’clock in the morning UK time) we arrived at the hotel from the airport and headed to our respective rooms. I promptly ordered room service as it was dinner time in Orlando and I find it best to get into the swing of the time zone I’m in. Annnnd I was hungry so why not!Not the greatest photo but basically I had a chicken burger with chips though¬†I was a bit disappointed as I really wanted was some overly fried crispy fries. And a huge pickle. God I love America with their love for pickles. And I ate it in my PJs in bed watching TV. BLISS.

One of our first proper meals was at Longhorn Steakhouse. I’m not usually a huge steak lover – though I do enjoy them. I wouldn’t have picked this restaurant myself but Kate and Jay raved about it and I was very relaxed this holiday about where and what we were going to eat that I went with their better judgement. I’m so glad I did!I ordered a fillet steak (rare) with a sweet potato. The sweet potato weirdly came with cinnamon sugar butter which I asked for on the side because it sounded wrong to have it on the potato. I didn’t touch it…just weird. The bread at Longhorn was TO DIE FOR as well. Now I’m fairly ambivalent about bread, but this bread was warm and delicious. So a very simple but a very tasty meal.

We followed this with a trip to Menchies for some fro-yo and I went a bit crazy on the toppings (all the animal cookies, the brownie bites, the cookie dough chunks, the turtle chocolate caramel things). So good.

Another top meal was at a Mexican restaurant called Chuy’s which we went to the last time we went to Orlando together. I had chicken fajitas and it came with all the trimmings.At first I thought I’d need to ask for more tortillas it only came with three. But after piling each one with so much filling that they almost exploded, I really didn’t need anymore! I didn’t need my rice either. The guacamole, sour cream, salsa, cheese, tortillas and chicken with onion and peppers were enough!

We then popped into Coldstone Creamery. Jay and Kate had a crazy ice cream concoction but I went for a candy apple because, well, see blog name.I had a rocky road one and it was covered with caramel, chocolate, nuts and marshmallow. Ahh it was so good. I’m not a huge ice cream fan so the apple was always the way forward for me.

After doing Busche Gardens one day we had a late lunch/early dinner at a lovely little Italian pizza place called Giovanni’s. Again, this is one we’ve been to before and we all loved it. I shared chicken wings with Jamie and had a gyro salad with pita bread. The chicken wings. Good God. They were amazing. Possibly the best of the holiday? It’s hard to say. You know me, I love chicken wings and would eat them every day if I could (I did when I went to Boston) so this is high praise indeed. Buffalo sauce and blue cheese dip. I can’t even.We followed this by going to the ice cream parlour next door and I had seven bars flavour and birthday cake flavour. The seven bars flavour is basically seven different chocolate bars within the ice cream – it literally rocked my world. The birthday cake (which was underneath) sadly didn’t compare but was still good.

And something I always get when I go to Orlando… the turkey leg. It’s one of my favourite things. It brings out the true carnivore in me. And why my friends call me a hyena. When we went to Disney we decided to have a more ‘snacky lunch’ as we were going to Chuy’s that evening (see above).I sniffed out where the turkey legs were and settled myself on a bench with the above view while Kate and Jamie headed off to find what they wanted for lunch. Kate, being the pudding pro, went for an ice cream sandwich while Jamie had a hot dog. They had to wait a bit in a queue so I sat on my own started munching away. Jamie said from a distance it looked like I hadn’t been fed for a week and had finally been shown food… smallish girl with giant turkey leg eating like a hyena. I was in my own little happy world, what can I say!What we tended to do is if we were planning a big lunch, then we’d skip breakfast. I would get a fruit salad and a coffee from the Hard Rock Hotel mini-shop and that would tide me over until lunch. We usually also timed this with the previous night having had a huge dinner so I didn’t really wake up that hungry. So most days we’d have one really big main meal (with pudding) and probably snacks either side. I will say though on the days we didn’t have breakfast by midday I was SO ready to eat. But then so were Kate and Jay. We had very similar stomach clocks so this worked nicely. They’re very food-focused so I knew I’d never be without ūüėČ

One of my favourite restaurants we went to (which we went to twice as it was just so good) was a restaurant about 30 minutes from the tourist area called 4 Rivers Smokehouse.Now I know I eat a lot of ribs, but honestly this was PHENOMENAL. I had a full rack of St. Louis ribs (my favourite style of ribs) and it rocked my world a million times over (OK how often will I use this phrase??). I got two chicken wings on the side because as part of the meal you got a load of sides with it (like cornbread, BBQ beans and Mac &¬†Cheese, Southern greens…things like that) but I just wanted the biscuit and wings. The biscuit was ridiculously soft and delicious. The ribs…so good. If you ever go to Orlando, look this place up. Seriously.

We also went to Cheesecake Factory one day. We don’t really have anything similar to this in the UK. The menu is ridiculous. PAGES upon pages of options. Basically we went purely for the cheesecake. I shared some chicken wings with Kate (see, addicted) and then had a chicken and guacamole salad (so much avocado…) followed by the white chocolate macadamia nut cheesecake (not as good as the Ultimate Red Velvet though).For a giggle I worked out how many calories I ate in this mealThat’s pretty insane, right?? I have honestly never felt so full in my life. Yes I ate all of it. While I was eating the cheesecake I was thinking, “I’m a bit full but I’m OK” and then suddenly within the last bite of it I hit the fullest I’ve ever been. We were all stuffed. I literally needed to lie down and curl up in the fetal position. I think in my future full scale in life that Cheesecake Factory moment will be right at the top.

Another day when I literally ate more than I really should have was one of the best meals of my life. MY ENTIRE LIFE. This is a bold, bold statement I know. I went to Orlando knowing I wanted this meal after seeing a YouTuber eating it. This was brunch after the Orlando parkrun (another post to come) at Hash House A Go Go.Fried chicken on BACON-FILLED waffles covered with fried leeks (random but it worked) and hot maple reduction. It was ENORMOUS. But I was in food heaven. I dream about this meal even now.Best meal of the holiday. Best meal of my life. I pretty much ate it all bar maybe one¬†of the¬†waffles and the two random cherry tomatoes they served it with (weird). Jay ate those.It said it came with eggs but I honestly can’t remember eggs being in there. Anyway I felt ridiculously full. We ate about 9.30am? I didn’t eat again (absolutely nothing – not even coffee) until after 7pm (and that was a salad). What do you do after you’ve eaten a ridiculous big meal and feel a bit ill? Go to SeaWorld and do the roller coasters. Ooof. Especially when we went on Manta which holds you horizontal and we got held there at the end for a good 5 minutes as they took ages boarding the next people. I’ve never been sick on a ride but honestly I was THIS close. Stupid, stupid idea.

And the best pudding of the holiday? The chocolate brownie milkshake I got from the new City Walk restaurant, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. After *cough* chicken wings for starters (with an insanely good chocolate ale sauce) and a chicken salad, I had the best milkshake (and pudding) of the holiday.The brownie milkshake came with chocolate ice cream as the base of the milkshake but I changed to vanilla as I thought it would be a bit too chocolatey. They blend up a brownie in there too so this was a very wise choice. I was in heaven. I dipped the brownie in the milkshake and just floated away to heaven. Kate got the peanut butter one (far right) and Jamie got the Dulche Leche (middle). We all agreed it was AMAZING. My one regret of the holiday is not going back for the red velvet milkshake (they put a red velvet cupcake on top). But a reason to go back…

Other puddings worthy of a shout-out were the slices of red velvet and carrot cake at the bakery in 4 Rivers Smokehouse (can that place get any better?).Kate and I shared the slices as we couldn’t make our minds up. It worked out nicely as I found I preferred¬†the carrot cake and she preferred the red velvet.

And then another candy apple that I got to choose the toppings for in the Disney Springs candy shop.It was a caramel base, a white chocolate covering, Butterfingers and Graham Cracker sprinkled all over and then a dark chocolate drizzle. Oh it was so good. But I felt incredibly sick that evening. Way too much sugar.

This obviously isn’t everything I ate on holiday, but it’s the real highlights. And the reason why I gained half a stone (7lbs)! I weighed myself before going on holiday and then after making a prediction with Kate and Jamie about how much I’d have put on, I weighed myself as soon as I got back from the airport. Half a stone! I mean to be honest I’m surprised I didn’t put more on but we did walk over 25,000 steps a day, I did lots of running and a few gym visits so really I came out quite well I think. I’m quite proud of myself ūüėČ

But having weighed myself today (a week and a half later) I’m pretty much back to my pre-holiday weight. I DID NOT go on a ridiculous starvation diet. I just went back to my usual eating, running and gym visits (no more than usual). Honestly, I didn’t feel guilty or awful about what I ate or how much weight I put on. I knew when I got home things would readjust back. And they have done. I mean if I’m honest, I was craving my normal food and healthier ways of eating when I got back so it wasn’t that hard. Though I miss that milkshake and chicken and waffles every day. EVERY DAY.

So there we go. Go on holiday, eat all the foods, relax and think about the memories you make not the calories you’re eating!

Do you eat lots of holiday?

Best meal of your life?

What’s your favourite pudding you’ve ever had?

The madness of a looming marathon

There’s nothing like an impending marathon to get you going. Even when it’s chucking it down with snow…

I must have been the only person in the UK who was unaware it was supposed to snow on Thursday evening. Sure I’d heard about the “thundersnow storm” but I hadn’t really connected it with reality – I mean surely that’s just in Scotland, right? So when I packed my gym bag in the morning to take to work I merrily threw in my usual pair of shorts and didn’t think twice. I normally wear shorts, I normally warm up. Totally fine.

Then I got to work and everyone was talking about how at 4pm snow was going to start. Er, what? And lo and behold, as 4pm hit so did buckets of snow. But when you have a marathon very soon (February) and you’re hugely under-trained (longest run 6 miles at this point) and you need adequate spacing of runs to not re-niggle the injury you’re only just getting over…well, you have little choice but to put those tiny shorts on and get out there and run.

It was fully throwing it down as I headed out, to the point I couldn’t really see as I had to blink so much due to the big fluffy snowflakes hitting my eyes. And the floor was already coated in a a thick dusting of snow. So foot placing was precarious, as were corners. I was soaked and cold very quickly and this encouraged me to run a bit faster, but not¬†too fast to risk falling over.

I got several odd looks from people sheltering under bus stops waiting for their bus and commuters in their cars. But I strangely quite enjoyed it. I felt like a warrior. My legs were freezing, which is never happens to me, but it wasn’t terrible. I was only going three miles so I knew it would be over soon.When I finished and walked the last bit to get to my office, a guy sheltering near the door stared at me incredulously and said, “you’re absolutely mental”. I pretty much agreed.
People left in the office laughed at me when I said it was a bit nippy out. My legs were so pink and I was drenched! It took pretty much my entire commute home (an hour’s journey) to warm up again. I stood in my shower on full blast and full heat basically searing off a layer of my skin to get warm again. But I’m glad I went out. It was a good run. I felt strong, my shin felt good and it’s all miles towards Tokyo (albeit only three but hey it’s all relative here for me!).

There’s nothing like a big goal or deadline to get you motivated and focused. And I’m being really sensible (I think!). I’m only running three times a week, and two of those runs are three miles. I might bump one of those up to four (ooh go crazy, eh!). And then I have a longer run at the weekend, and no consecutive running days. It seems to be working.

I go to Florida with friends in two weeks and I really have no idea how the running will go but I’m going to aim to do two big runs out there. I say “big” runs but we’re talking 13-16 miles, though it could all change. Basically I’m fully winging it. I hope to do the parkrun in Orlando again as well. The¬†two friends¬†I’m going with are the friends who have just got into running and parkrun. And incidentally they are the friends that laughed at me for doing the Orlando parkrun the last time we went. Ha! How the tables have turned now ūüėČ

But I’m still feeling positive – if not maybe in denial? Either way it’s all good. At least when I’m running Tokyo I can look back fondly on this 3 mile snowy run and remember what I warrior I am ūüėČ

Have you ever run in snow?

What’s the worst weather you’ve ever run in?

What do you wear during winter exercise?