Things I’m Loving – December

I’m quite excited about heading into the new year. 2017 has been a solidly good year for me. Full of happiness, good running, delicious food and lovely memories. I hope 2018 will continue these themes! Also I’m quite looking forward to being in an “even numbered” year again – is that odd? Anyway, on to some cool stuff I’m loving lately.

Clinique Sonic System Purifying Cleansing Brush

My skincare regime used to be cold water. Literally nothing else. But times are a-changing! After having my first ever facial last month I’ve given my face a bit more thought. Let’s be honest, I’m certainly not getting any younger and, well, I’m still single sooo…IMG_2263On that note I’ve made a couple of investments to my “beauty regime”. My mother is a terrible influence on me. She recently bought the Clarins version of the cleansing brush and let me try it out (yes we shared brushes, no I don’t care. She’s my mother). It felt amazing and left my face really fresh and clean. Then the next day we ended up in Boots and somehow I’d purchased the Clinique cleaning brush. Almost £100. I actually felt a bit sick when I got home. To be fair, it came with three other products, though I mean for that cost it better have!! (It came with a toner product as well not shown in the photo).

After having used it for a number of weeks I can say I don’t regret buying it. My skin indeed looks clearer and happier. I’m not one for getting spots or have “problem skin” but it definitely looks fresher. Plus it’s fun to use.

The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% Formula

I don’t actually know what to call this product. I heard about it after listening to the Don’t Salt My Game podcast where they debunked lots of skincare myths. It was one of the products that was recommended to actually work at keeping the skin looking good. It’s also very cheap (£5.50) and didn’t have all the guff and nonsense that other skincare products seem to have.IMG_2264It has a very high concentration of two powerful antioxidants: Resveratrol and Ferulic Acid, which are apparently great antioxidants for the skin.

I just put a couple of drops on my face after using my face buffer and then smooth it in. It’s quite oily but doesn’t leave my skin oily if that makes sense. I really like this product. Together with the buffer my face has really improved. And for someone who quickly gives up with skincare products after I don’t see the point of them, these are things I’ve maintained for a good number of weeks now and really like to use.

eGloves

I was recently sent another pair of eGloves to try out after I bumped into the guy behind the business at a parkrun and he mentioned that my current eGloves looked to be a bit too big for me (they’re a small). He very kindly offered to send me a new pair in extra small in the new range. It was also extremely good timing because I was finding my hands were getting really cold when I ran. The eGloves I originally had were more lightweight gloves which were good when it was chilly but not so much for when the temperatures were really low.IMG_1887When I first popped the new gloves on I knew they were the real deal. These bad boys are seriously warm. They’re also not big and bulky – as some winter gloves are – and still have the cool finger bits that allow you to still be able to use the touch screens of smart phones (so annoying when you have to remove your gloves to do this!). IMG_1983I wore the gloves during the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon and they were perfect. The material is very breathable so even when my hands got hot it didn’t feel like they were sweaty inside. Fully recommend these if you’re looking for some warm running gloves!

Oryx Desert Salt

I was also recently sent a set of salts to use for cooking. Oryx Desert Salt is an unrefined, sun-dried salt, free from additives and preservatives. It contains natural and essential minerals and comes all the way from the Kalahari Desert, where it is ethically and sustainably harvested. And, what I most love, is with every purchase they donate a percentage to the Khomani San and Mier communities who own !xaus Lodge in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.IMG_1917The pack I received is a fab gift box set of three grinders containing coarse salt, smoked salt and wine salt and a cotton refill bag. I also received an apron (see below photo: my dad loves the apron).IMG_2173Yes too much salt can certainly be a bad thing for your health, but used in moderation and sensibly, these salts really add a lovely taste to my dinner. Salt is also good for reducing the dreaded cramp and is important if you sweat a lot (hi all runners). IMG_2175I feel rather posh using them I must say! I personally loved the smoked one as it adds such a subtle tasty edge.IMG_2180

You can buy them in Sainsbury’s.

Next month I hope to talk about my vibrating massage ball (always sounds so wrong…) and my new running watch… 😉

Do you use a lot of salt when cooking?

What is your skincare regime like?

Are there any new products you’ve been loving this month?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent both the gloves and the salt pack for free in return for a review on my blog. All opinons are my own honest ones.**

Trying to keep up

On Friday my work, Wiggle, had another ‘sports day’. They happen on the last Friday of every month at 2.30pm, with several options you can get involved in.

There were two different bike rides, tennis, swimming and two different runs. There was a “slower” 5k and a 15k. The 15k didn’t mention speed but I didn’t think it would be that fast. I saw who was signed up for it and there was a girl doing it who was a little bit slower than me so I felt comfortable.IMG_0151I decided to wear a suitably sporty outfit to work to embrace the day (plus, leggings are just SO comfortable and honestly I’d wear them every day if I could… well, I probably could at Wiggle but I need to maintain some level of smartness in life I think! Plus I really don’t need to give myself an excuse to buy any more leggings).

Before 2.30pm I swapped my leggings for shorts and got myself ready for the run. I met the others downstairs in the lobby and realised the group was actually made up of entirely speedy people. The girl who I’d spotted on the list had decided not to run at the last minute. I mean, I didn’t know for a fact that these guys were speedy but you know when you can just tell? There was also the 2.39 marathoner girl as well. I MEAN SERIOUSLY.I nervously said, “I think I might be in the wrong group here…” but they all politely assured my I’d be fine and they wouldn’t go too fast. Hmmm.

Well, as soon as we started running it was clear their concept of fast were quite different to my concept of fast. As we about to do around nine miles I decided to just keep at the pace I was comfortable with and not feel pressured to run faster. I was running 8min/miles and they were already stretching ahead of me. I resolutely stuck to my guns. If they wanted to leave me behind then fine, but I wasn’t going to risk injury or exhaustion trying to keep up with them.

It did make me a little sad though. I had so much enjoyed the last Wiggle run… it was fun and social and there were no egos or speed dictatorship involved. It was the first time since joining Wiggle where I felt left out and not good enough (entirely in my head I know but still a feeling I felt).

After a mile they waited for me to catch up. I said to them did they think it was better if I just went back and did the 5k instead? But again they assured me it was fine. They slowed down a little and I managed to keep in the group. Though they were chatting away and I was just focusing on keeping up. Again, not an overwhelmingly fun experience.

The route was nice. We went along Farlington Marshes (which is where I got the idea to go walking there on Sunday). It was flat, not too windy and soft underfoot so at least there was that.

There were only five of us and as we settled into the second mile one of the guys started slowing down and drifting behind us. In the end for most of the run he was far behind and we’d wait until he caught up at sporadic moments. I felt mean leaving him and a little angry that as a group we weren’t adjusting our speed to keep as a group.

Right at the end the two faster runners dashed off for a final sprinty mile and I ran to the end with one of the other guys who, despite being naturally fast, was starting to feel the miles. We’d completely left behind two other guys and they ended up going the long way round, unsure of the route. To be honest, it didn’t scream of comradeship or team building but there we go. I’ll know for next time when I see who’s signed up to what!9 milesIn the end it was a solid run in terms of the speed and distance – a good tempo run. But enjoyment factor? Minimal. Constantly feeling like I’m not fast enough or worried about people behind me being left behind isn’t my idea of fun.

Wiggle had also arranged for a pop-up bar with a tent serving sausages as well (with a guy dressed in lederhosen…). The 5k’ers were back so I chatted to them for a bit while enjoying many glasses of Diet Coke. It was so warm and sunny. Ahh here was the fun part – no more egos or feeling left out. Instantly I felt miles better.I know this sounds so corny, but I’ve made friends with a nice group of people at work and I don’t feel like the newbie or outsider anymore (like you do at the beginning). Everyone is around my age or a bit younger so it feels very natural and easy (unlike the run perhaps…).Anyway, onto a review! A few weeks ago I was sent a Sonic Chic Deluxe toothbrush. Now, I used to own an electric toothbrush but…eh… I kind of gave up on it. To be honest, it annoyed me having to charge it with a great stonking cable and unit in my bathroom and it seemed a faff. Yes, yes I know electric toothbrushes are better for you tooth and blah blah…

Anyway, this toothbrush is charged using a USB – which is quite dinky and cute. No long cables or annoyingness. It’s actually a very slimline and attractive toothbrush (is that weird? It’s very travel-easy is what I mean). It’s slimline and has a nice case to it to fit easily into a wash bag.

Despite it’s size, it’s really quite powerful. The vibrations of the bristles are quite intense (32,000 strokes a minute)! And I really like how after 30 seconds it pulses so you know to change the quadrant of your mouth. And the brush head is quite small so it can get to the nooks and crannies of your mouth – like behind your bottom teeth (always a problem area for me my dentist tells me). It also contains a replacement brush. Remember to change those brush heads fairly regularly!You do have to physically move the brush though yourself – if that makes sense? A regular electric toothbrush you might just need to guide it along your teeth as it’s head spins and circles, but for this one you gently do the circular actions as the head only does the sonic vibrations rather than any actual movements. It also doesn’t come with a plug, just the USB connector. I really like it. It’s marketed as a travel toothbrush but it’s now my regular one. The battery is also really good. You get a substantial number of uses before needing to charge it (maybe once per week?). My mouth definitely felt SO much cleaner after using this, fully recommend! You can buy from Boots for £19.99.

Do you use an electric toothbrush?

Do you have friends at work?

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

My marathon plans for Sunday and charcoal beauty

My 11th marathon is on Sunday. The Bournemouth Marathon. The only marathon I’ve previously done before.

I don’t tend to like to do the same marathons again as I think that, because they’re so epic, it’s nice to do different ones. Experience a new place, carve out new memories from the blood, sweat and tears… but Bournemouth is a little different for me. I have a few “heebie jeebie” feelings about it because it’s the only marathon I’ve done where I’m not proud of my performance and I really didn’t enjoy.Bournemouth marathon 5I felt something not quite right in my knee around mile eight and by mile 12 I was really uncomfortable, and mile 16 in pain. By mile 22 I was run-walking and mile 24 just walking. Barely. I was crying as I crossed the finish-line. Not out of happiness or relief, but out of pain. I was then injured for a significant amount of time after that race. To continue running the race was a stupid decision. One I hope not to recreate in any race going forward.IMG_5016So I have some bad vibes with this race. I wanted to re-do it to erase those bad memories and, well, unfinished business and all that. Like I’ve said in previous posts, I’m not sure how I’m going to run it (one foot in front of the other’s a good start…). In terms of paces…ack, I don’t know. I want to have an enjoyable experience…but I also want to see where I’m at. I’ve had a *fairly* good lead-up to this marathon (albeit with the snaggle of an injury) and I do feel like I have some good endurance strength in me. Speed? Not so much.

One day I promise I’ll actually train with the intention to go into a marathon and bravely say, “I’m going to go for a time near my PB” but, being 100% realistic here, that is not this marathon. I would blow up by 14-16 miles. So I have a conservative approach of aiming for around 8.20-30s to start and see how I feel as I get past half-way and towards the 18-20 mile area. If I feel like it’s too hard, I’ll drop the pace back (by mile 10 for definite) but if I feel good I’ll give it some welly in the last 10k and hang on for dear life.

But, as I always say, you never know with a marathon. I may not even finish. I may crumble. A marathon can chew you up and spit you out, however well or badly you’ve trained. Such is its beauty. So I’ll go into it giving it the respect it deserves. I’ll take nothing for granted and listen to my body, my heart rate, my breathing and mentally what I’m feeling. The rest is in the hands of the running gods.

Activated Charcoal Products Review

So it seems that charcoal products seem to be very “in vogue” right now. Activated charcoal sounds all rather posh and interesting. Basically charcoal becomes activated when acid or steam are combined with carbon rich materials such as wood, coal, rye starch or coconut shells and then these “unlock” the billions of tiny pores within the carbon materials. This makes it really absorbent and helps pull impurities from the skin and remove bacteria effectively. I was recently sent some “home-made” charcoal supplements, charcoal toothpaste and a charcoal face mask.

Ecodenta Extra Black Whitening Toothpaste with Black Charcoal & Teavigo 

I’ve tried charcoal toothpaste before and though it wasn’t unpleasant and I did get on with it, the taste was something I needed to get used to. Happily this brand tasted far better! Very much more similar to regular minty toothpaste.My teeth felt and looked lovely and clean after brushing. It’s hard obviously to compare to regular toothpaste but my mouth felt clean. What I will say, however, is that the blackness of the toothpaste has slightly coloured my toothbrush’s white bristles a grey colour and it can make a bit of a mess in a white sink. But it doesn’t stain, it just requires a bit of care.Sukin Oil Balancing + Charcoal Anti-Pollution Facial Masque 

I was also sent a face mask. I’m really not that great with beauty or skincare regimes. Literally all I do is wash my face in the morning and evening with water. I don’t cleanse, tone, moisturise or wear make-up. Actually that’s a lie, I’ve recently been using an eyebrow pencil to keep my eyebrows tidy (they’re quite dark so if I’ve been a bit too keen in the eyebrow plucking department then filling in the gaps makes things a bit neater). So a face mask isn’t really something I use. However, it is something I always think looks quite fun and my skin would probably benefit from doing once in a while. A “once in a while” style regime is my kinda bag for beauty.It’s also ridiculous therapeutic and fun to apply. It goes on lovely and smooth and dries quite quickly. Then you just leave it on and go about life for 10 minutes (in the confines of the safe environment where no one will witness). It’s got a great natural looking list of ingredients as well, which I always appreciate.It easily washes off as well which is a relief. I used a flannel and only took about five minutes to get off. My skin did feel cleaner afterwards and “fresh”.

Holland & Barrett Charcoal Supplements

I was also sent some charcoal supplements.I literally had no idea what these were for. I Googled it to find that apparently they can help treat flatulence… well, what do you know eh! They absorb the excess gas apparently and can reduce bloating. OK then!I don’t have bloating problems (or excessive gas, just to be clear here) but I was intrigued. I will hold my hands up and say that though I don’t bloat or fart excessively, when I’ve had maybe a few too many sprouts or vegetables in general (onion really does a number on me weirdly) I do bloat. I think this is normal for most people, right? Anyway, I’ve been taken these tablets regularly and those sorts of moments of vegetable over-consumption have produced less bloating than ordinarily would. I mean, I’m no scientist but I do  think it helped a little. I can’t promise it would work though for people with chronic bloating issues or after a mammoth curry. WHO KNOWS.

All these items can be found from Holland and Barrett.

Have you ever tried charcoal products?

Do you always a strategy going into a race like a marathon?

Have you ever done a race again to erase the bad memories you’ve had before?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent these products for free in return for a review post. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Oxford parkrun review

It has been AGES since I had a parkrun review. I really must get back into them as they’re quite handy and I’ve done so many more since. I have my lovely friend Michelle (from the Austria Run Camp and used to be part of my running club) to thank for this post as she’s kindly written up a review of the Oxford parkrun. She’s now a DOCTOR (not only is she super fast but she’s super smart) and so this is now her local parkrun. Let’s get to it. (All photos are from CJ Photos found on their Facebook page).

Location

Oxford parkrun takes place in Cutteslowe and Sunnymead Park which can be found on the far north of the city, just outside the ring road. The park itself is the largest in the city and has received a Green Flag Award.The 42 hectares of parkland are split into Cutteslowe Park to the north and Sunnymead Park to the south with a bridge joining the two. During World War II large parts of the park were used to grow vegetables and afterwards continued to be home to allotments. More recently this area of land is managed to provide community woodlands and a semi-natural wildlife area.Parking

There are two car parks available at the park; Harbord Road to the north edge of the park and the other at the south just off the A40 if you’re heading towards Headington. Both are pay and display however charges don’t come into effect until 10am.

The two main entrances to the park are also where the car parks are for those travelling by two wheeled or two footed transport. Oxford Parkway/Water Eaton park and ride is approximately a mile down the road so ideal for any keen bean wanting a mile warm up and cool down. From here you can then get either the bus or train into Oxford city centre and spend the rest of the day exploring oxfords colleges, shopping streets and cafes. The park and ride costs £2 to park for 11 hours and then bus is £2.80 return (although train is only £1.90 if you have a railcard!).

Amenities

Okay I’ll start by ticking off the two most important things…firstly yes there are toilets within the park. Secondly post parkrun coffee and cake is within eyesight of the finish line. The San Remo cafe located within the park is where everyone tends to head (I can’t vouch for it personally though having not been). If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous then there are several lovely cafes and bakeries in Summertown which is very close by (walking distance).Within the park itself are several children’s play areas, table tennis tables, a miniature railway, beach volleyball courts, a skate park and outdoor tennis courts. There are also cricket and multiple football pitches which are used by local football clubs on a Saturday morning. For hide and seek lovers there are several geocaches hidden within the park and a marked 18 point orienteering course. Or if you just want to be outdoors with nature there are areas of wildflowers, oriental flower beds, allotments and community woodland.

As well as the parkrun course there is also a 1 mile course marked around the park.

Course

The course itself starts in a northerly direction on an area of grass, your run 1 and 3/4 loops of the small grass field (marked with posts which you go around, a bit like a rounders pitch) and then you leave the field at the southernmost point to head out and complete 2 large laps of the park.The large laps start with a slight downhill on tarmac and then you turn left to follow the southern perimeter of the park on the grass. This is where you need to be careful as there are some rabbit holes and mole hills as well as the grass being slightly banked. After a short stretch of gravel path you turn onto the main open field which you follow the edge of for 3 edges of the square. Again, this is grass with a trodden “track” and signs marking the route. When I ran the course it was soft underfoot due to recent rain but I can imagine during winter to can become very muddy so don’t wear those new shiny trainers!!
When you get to the final edge of the field the grass track turns to a gravel path. This is the only real uphill on the course but is not steep and only about 200m long. At the top of the track you turn left onto a tarmac path which you then follow through a sharp right then an almost 180 degree left turn to complete the first large loop.Once you complete the second of the large laps you head back onto the grass after the tight left turn and straight into the finish funnel with just enough distance to get a sprint finish in.

Elevation

The graph below shows the overall elevation of the course.As I mentioned above there is only really one uphill and that last for approximately 200m but isn’t steep. Only thing is you do it twice. Otherwise I’d say the only thing slowing the course slightly is that it’s mostly grass underfoot and there are a few tight turns!

Number of participants

The largest turnout is 405 but on average there are 165 runners so it is a small parkrun for being located in a big city.There are often families, runners with buggies and runners with dogs taking part and the other facilities in the park make it an ideal family morning out!

Check out their Twitter and Facebook pages for updates and information!

Thank you Michelle, a fabulous review 🙂

If you’d like to do a parkrun review, please email me (annatheappleblog@gmail.com) and I’ll post it up!

Have you ever been to the Oxford parkrun?

Have you ever been to Oxford? I love it there. So British and lovely.

Rants and Raves #38

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

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

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

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

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

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