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.**

D Day 10k 2017

I went to bed the Saturday night before the D Day 10k at 9pm. This is despite getting up at the more leisurely time of 7am and having had an hour long nap at 6pm in the day. My body felt knackered. Last week had been a total grind.

All week I didn’t felt myself. I felt unwell, though not in like a dodgy tummy or sickness way but in a lethargic, foggy and overwhelming tiredness way. It felt like a virus as I didn’t feel right in myself, but other people have suggested low iron levels or over-training. But I don’t think it was. My heart rate, in general, had been normal when I woke up and during the day. But who knows.

ANYWAY. So I didn’t have particularly high hopes for D Day. Despite my early night and 8am alarm (so a very cushty 11 hours sleep) I woke up still not feeling like my normal sprightly self. But I wanted to do the race more to just be social and have a run with other people. I’d only mope about on my own and then do a feeble run later in the day anyway.

My friend Mike picked me up with his daughter and we headed to Portsmouth. Neither of us were “feeling” the race and we moaned about how rubbish we felt. We spoke to a few others and in general people were feeling a bit pants about it. But the sun was shining, it’s a flat course (albeit a lot of around a car park) and there’s a Starbucks just next to the finish.I said to Mike and my friend Geoff that I hoped to do sub-50. From parkrun the day before I just didn’t think my legs were going to perform well. Running was hard work recently. Mike was aiming to beat his PB but wasn’t sure how he’d fare. I was pleased to find that I could wear my Aftershokz headphones as they’re “bone conducting” so complied with regulations. I definitely needed something to keep me going!I hadn’t had breakfast that morning as I didn’t want to get up any earlier than 8am but had a glass of water with electrolytes and then an SIS caffeine shot 30 minutes before the race start. I hoped it would rev me up a bit.I did half a mile gentle jogging (something I rarely do but I had time on my hands) and then we headed to the start.We held a minute’s silence in respect for the victims of the London attack the night before just before the start, which was a sombre but respectful thing to do. Then we started. I had my music on and got going. As I weaved around people in front of me and got into my stride I found that I felt quite good. Nothing like the heavy leg and fogginess I’ve felt on my other runs that week. I checked my watch and was surprised to see 7:15min/mile pace. I genuinely wondered if my Garmin was playing up but decided to just go with it.

I kept with a guy from the club, Bernie, for a while and then felt myself getting stronger and overtook him. I actually couldn’t believe how strong I felt and yet how quick (for me) I appeared to be going. I decided to see what I could do. If I crashed and burned then so be it, but right then I felt comfortable.

The course itself at D Day is a bit dull. I’ve done it before a good few years ago but it’s changed hugely. It’s unrecognisable to what I ran previously. I knew there were three laps but I couldn’t work out where that would happen. I just kept focused on the runners ahead of me and gradually picked them off.

As I got into mile two, now down to 7min/miles, I was still wondering where this speed and ease of running had come from. The course was super flat and the wind, fairly gentle, seemed to be mostly going sideways at us or as a tailwind. Occasionally we’d run against it but it was only brief moments. Everything seemed to be on our side.I passed a guy who normally is miles ahead of me and wondered if he was just plodding it or having a bad day (I later found he was using it as a training sessions: first 5k easy, and then 1k sprints – wow!). I gentle passed runners and had no one pass me, which felt really nice! Though to be fair, it wasn’t a particularly big field.

There’s a section of the course that runs down a gravel path and alongside a lake and lots of greenery which was fairly pleasant. It was annoying to run on gravel at 10k speed but it was a nice change from the boring and hot car park that made up a chunk of the race. We were under some shade which was nice, but the path seemed to go on forever.

Halfway there was a water station and I grabbed a drink. I wasn’t terribly thirsty but it was hot so I swigged a good few mouthfuls before tossing it to the side (always a delicate operations to a) not hit other runners, b) not hit any spectators, c) not throw it somewhere really obscure that it can’t be cleared away later).

I hit four miles and now the effort level was high. I was in the zone of “stay with it, keep pushing” while all the time wondering when I was going to blow or have a wobbly. I felt the energy slowly being sapped out of my legs and tried to remember all the amazing food I’d eaten the day before that I was sure would still be helping me. I cursed myself for not having breakfast but wondered if that would have helped. Who knows.

The last mile down that gravel path was tough. I found myself alone now. The runners ahead too far away to catch and no one behind me giving chase. Mentally it was tough. Physically it was tougher. I was then off the gravel and onto the final stretch of pavement to the finish.My watch beeped 6 miles and I told myself to just hold on for a few moments more. A “400m to go” sign appeared and I could see the finish ahead. Ah, smile for the camera (I’m sure that was a grimace…), “200m to go”, keep going, keep going. Annnnnd finish!No wobble but the sheer sense of effort and “God I feel sick” feelings hit me. I bloody hate 10ks. My watch said 43:13. I was over the moon. I couldn’t remember my PB but I knew it was 42-something. I checked my blog as that’s where I keep a list of PBs (so handy) and found I was only 23 seconds off!

There was a small Hedge End Running Club turn-out due to other events happening (*sobs* the Romsey Beer and Cake race being one) but it was a nice gathering. For the most part, I think people did fairly well and were happy. Mike achieved his PB as well so he was happy (once he’d finished dying on the grass).And finally a few of us headed to the very nearby Starbucks and we celebrated with some tasty coffee (I went for decaf as I’d already had that SIS caffeine shot – which, by the way, I think really helped my race!)So from initially not even wanting to show up to D Day, to being close to my PB…well, a definite turnaround! I’m really pleased that since January my 10k time has come down from 46:26 from the Stubbington 10k, to 45:27 from the Brighton 10k in April, now to 43:13. Annoyingly my official chip time is 43:22. Initially the race organisers had issues with some of the chips so I only had a gun time of 43:27 and then they added the chip time later (43:22). Though I’m not sure that’s accurate either as I spoke to a few others in the same boat and their watch times and new chip time don’t match at all either. Hey ho, 43:22 is still a big mark of progress though!

I’m not aiming to improve on this 10k time as marathon training is about to begin, but it’s always nice to naturally get quicker. I have another 10k in July so we’ll see how much of an improvement I can make, but I won’t be losing sleep over it! I do so hate 10ks…

What’s your favourite race distance?

What’s your favourite post race drink?

Have you ever surprised yourself with a race result when you weren’t feeling it?

**Full Disclaimer: I’ve been sent SIS products to test for free in exchange of reviewing them on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

The Botanist – Reading

When you love food as much as I do, getting invited to a restaurant launch is probably up there with a dream evening. A new restaurant has just opened in Reading, called The Botanist.

The Botanist is a chain but with only a few locations. I first heard about and went to The Botanist in Chester after the Chester Marathon. I was blown away by the look of the restaurant interior – so pretty and adhering to its botanical-theme.  So I was curious to see what the one in Reading would be like.

I invited my friend, George, to join me as he lives in Reading and is a fellow lover of food. It was a Thursday night which was somewhat of a bummer but hey I’m not complaining! We headed there straight from work, hungry and ready to go. Being the keeners we are, we arrived ten minutes too early so decided to ‘waste some time’ in a delightful Turkish cafe down the road. I had a freddo cappuccino which rocked.

Anyway, back to The Botanist. On arrival we were offered Prosecco or beer. We went for a glass of bubbly and enquired about what the event would entail.Apparently lots of free drink (an open bar, anything you want) and then canapes at 7.30pm. I was somewhat disappointed that the food would “just” be canapes (check out the menu, so many tempting options!) and seemed so far away. But hey we rolled with it and decided to do a lap of the restaurant to check the scene.

The restaurant is so beautifully decorated. I just love how they keep to the theme! Flower pots, plants, flowers…so pretty.It was filling out quickly with lots of people so we decided to head to the outside area and chill with our bubbly. The restaurant has a small but lovely outside area which was delightful to enjoy in the evening sunshine.We also noticed lots of cool looking cocktails being handed out. Some of which were in plant pots!! The Botanist is well known for it’s very cool cocktails, again all botanically themed.The barmen and ladies were lovely and friendly and, as you can see very happy to have their photo taken. Anyway, sadly as I was driving I couldn’t partake in much drinking but had insane amounts of Diet Coke instead…love that stuff.George and I grabbed one of the above cocktails after a bunch were made. I tried a sip (divine, so tasty!) and gave the rest to George. Lucky guy, he lived just down the round.We were sad not to be able to try the plant pot cocktails but these were very tasty.

And then finally we saw canapes being brought out. By this point, George and I were VERY hungry. The waitresses (who were working very hard indeed that night! And were super friendly and helpful) were bringing out these boards of canapes and putting them on tables. We didn’t have a table and they were walking straight past us. Cunning work needed to be done.

I saw a waitress with a board and asked her if I could have one “for our table”. She gladly handed one over, yesss! George and I quickly found an edge of a table to perch it on and like locusts attacked. The canapes were DELICIOUS.

And from then we seemed to score big time on the canape front. After three more boards we decided to head outside again for some fresh air as it was quite busy inside. We luckily found a table and I chilled with my Diet Coke while George sipped a beer. And then a waitress came over and gave us another board. Amazing.We rated our favourites (now serious canape connoisseurs). The chicken lolly pop was the best, hands down. Followed by the pork belly skewer (neither shown in this pic annoyingly). The quails egg Scotch egg rocked our world too. A fellow patron came over and asked to have one of our Scotch eggs as she’d seen them and hadn’t been able to try one yet. George and I looked at each other, both clearly trying to think of a polite way to say no (yes, even though this was our fifth board…), when another board passed by and we told her to grab it. Whew! Crisis averted 😉

Basically the food was amazing and worth the wait. I’ve never been so full on canapes before in my life! It was great being there with George who was as food-centric as me. Then we headed back into the restaurant and enjoyed the live music and the free drinks (well, Diet Coke for me).The music, the food, the drinks…all made for a fantastic evening. I’ll definitely be finding myself in Reading again soon to go back for a proper meal. I’m really pleased this one has opened up closer to me as I was sad when I realised there were none nearby after I had such a great meal in Chester.

We eventually left, goodie bags in tow, and headed for a some pudding at a local ice cream parlour. It ended the evening perfectly.Cookie dough ice cream and fudge brownie. Delightful!

Have you ever been to The Botanist?

What’s your favourite canape?

What’s your favourite cocktail?

**Full Disclaimer: I was invited to the opening of The Botanist in Reading in exchange of a mention 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?