Unpopular opinions and things I’m loving lately

Well this is really a random post! It’s a mix of things I’m loving at the moment and some unpopular opinions.

The unpopular opinions idea came from a post from Hungry Runner Girl and I thought it would be a fun post to do as well. I’ll throw my hands up and say it’s mainly food related but that should hardly surprise you 😉

  • I really don’t get Nutella. Yep starting with a big one. I mean, I like chocolate and I like hazelnuts. But together? As a weird thick paste you put on bread and crepes? Nope. Doesn’t do anything for me.
  • I also don’t get the craze for peanut butter (or any nut butters really). It could be because I don’t often have bread or toast. But I don’t see the appeal even on it’s own. It’s alright but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find any or eat it. I quite like a peanut butter chocolate flavour combo with cookies and ice cream but as a fun change rather than something I’d crave.
  • Toppings on porridge. In fact, I could say a whole lot about porridge and what people do to it. Cold overnight oats? Nope, no, nooo. The most exciting I do is putting protein powder in it.

  • Not one for the veggies… I really like eating my chicken with the skin on, and in general I’m a big fan of meat on the bone. I think it’s because I’m a mini T-Rex.

  • And one non-food related one. I’d rather get up at 5am to workout in the gym than do it in the evening. I can be motivated to run whenever, but going to the gym? Nope.

And onto things I’m loving lately…

This is fairly random but it made me laugh. Have you ever wondered what animal you’d be if you were to be one? On my two holidays I was called two different animals. The first was a hyena. This goes back to the eating meat from the bone (see above).I’m pretty good at getting as much meat as I can off it. It’s a well-honed skill. I like to think that back in the day (you know, a few million years ago) I’d have survived for a good amount of time as a neanderthal with that kind of ability.

In Tokyo I then got called a squirrel. This is because I have a fear of food running out and so to combat this I constantly carry snacks round with me. On the flight I had three different packets of crisps, two apples, a mini bag of pretzels and some turkey jerky. I didn’t eat them all but I felt happier knowing they were there.

This doughnut. Now I’m not a huge doughnut fan. I’m more of a cake-lover. However when I was in Southampton West Quay shopping centre I saw a “make your own doughnut” stand. Basically you could choose your own toppings…as many as you liked! For £1.50! I walked over to have a look – just a LOOK – and found myself with my purse in my hands perusing the menu before I knew what I was doing.I got a white chocolate covered doughnut with caramel sauce and caramel shrapnel.Caramel shrapnel? What a wonderful way to describe little droplets of sugary heaven. I won’t lie. I got it all over me in the middle of the busy shopping centre and I did not care.

Odd but tasty gels. My lovely friend, Mat (AKA triathlon legend) sent me some gels a while ago and I was FINALLY able to try them out during the marathon. Well, one of them anyway! Maple Bacon flavoured GU. Yes really.I have quite a strong stomach and have never had an issue with gels before so I was confident to just try it for the first time during the race (I live life on the edge…). It was really good. I love the flavour of maple bacon anyway (Kettlebites I’m looking at you) so this wasn’t too weird for me. Sweet and salty yumminess! (FYI: I believe he bought them from Amazon).

Tokyo goodies: When I finished the Tokyo Marathon (I’ll stop talking about this one day), we were first given a towel as we walked from the finish line. I was like “oh cool…but we still get a medal, right??” Thankfully we did, but getting a towel as well was pretty cool.I’ve only ever received a mini gym towel (and that was in place of a medal) but this is pretty damn good. Get me to a swimming pool/beach/plumbing disaster immediately!

I also got a technical t-shirt which (hallelujah!) actually fits.As I’m a fairly micro person I always opt for extra-small if it’s available as an option and this fits like a glove. I suppose it helps that Japanese women in general are quite small.

ASICS running gear from Millet Sports: Millet Sports kindly sent me a pair of ASICS leggings and ASICS running jacket to review.Firstly, apologies for the most ridiculously cheesy pose in this picture. Catalogue pose eat your heart out.

The jacket is brilliant. It’s quite thick, so perfect for when it’s really cold outside (like those ridiculously cold mornings or evenings we’ve been having). It has the fabulous thumb holes as well as a couple of nice pockets. It’s waterproof, breathable and has reflective dots over it so great for visibility when running in the dark. I just love the colour as well.It matches my new trainers!

The leggings are full length made from a breatheable stretch material, with a short zip at the ankles to give a bit of ventilation (I personally wouldn’t when running as it would flap, but I imagine after a run it’s lovely to have a bit of air). There’s a drawstring around the waist so there’s no worries about them slipping down mid-run as well. Though they’re not baggy they are less tight than other leggings I have, like ones from Fabletics or Lululemon which literally suck you all in. This makes running in them a lot more comfortable.

There’s also a back pocket slightly to the side which I like as sometimes a back pocket can annoy me with the zip, whereas slightly to one side is a bit more comfortable.

A great winter running outfit. Check out Millet Sports for more running gear!

What would be your ideal doughnut topping?

What animal would you be and why?

What’s your unpopular opinion?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the leggings and jacket for free in return for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

All the puddings

This weekend was full of highs and lows. Let’s get the lows done quickly, shall we?

I ran on Monday night and my shin/calf was really niggly. It had niggled slightly at parkrun a week ago but I put it down to it being really cold and my muscles not being warm enough. But Monday clarified things. It didn’t feel right and afterwards it felt pretty crappy. I’ll go into this in another post but basically this is rubbish.

Anyway, I didn’t run again until deciding to try a few miles before parkrun this weekend (because I was panicking I hadn’t hit the 8 mile long run I needed to for Tokyo). Though I knew I was lying to myself. I knew the run wouldn’t go well really and this was just to avoid me going to parkrun believing I could run and having to DNF. So on my pre-parkrun walk with Alfie I ran up the road with him and decided it was a no-go. I got back home, wrapped up in warmer clothes and headed to parkrun to set-up and volunteer.img_6900It was very cold and despite having several layers on and a hat I was cold. I was grumpy as I was overthinking about my leg, running and marathon training…but I was eventually cheered up by the lovely parkrun crew. You can’t be too sad at parkrun!

After parkrun and a hot bowl of porridge, I headed to the gym to take out some of my frustrations. I did 30 minutes on the elliptical machine which made me feel a little better about not running and then did a fantastic glute workout which I’m still feeling today. This included:

• Squats
• Landmine squats (these are great for really working on your depth)
• Monster walks with a resistance band
• Cable pull-throughs
• Leg press burnout
• Single leg deadlifts

I left the gym feeling accomplished and far more happy. Sometimes you just need to sweat it out!

I was also feeling good because I was going out for a Christmas meal with my friends. It’s always so nice to dress up. I wore a very sparkly dress with sparkly shoes and felt really happy 🙂img_6924

We went to the Cams Mill pub (where the Fareham parkrun starts at). It was very nice!img_6935We’d made our menu selections a while ago and I was disappointed with myself for choosing trout as my main rather than turkey (who does that!??!). I think my rationale was that I didn’t want to over-do turkey before the big day. I was very jealous when the mains came out though. However, my trout was delicious (and I got some leftover turkey from one of my friends so it was a win-win!)cams-mill-pubAnd again I was annoyed that I’d selected a pear tart for pudding… but then realised I’d chosen it because the cheesecake was chocolate orange which I don’t really like. I’m not a Terry’s Chocolate Orange fan at all! And Christmas pudding is a bit too rich and alcoholly for me.

The pear tart, however, was really really good. The ice cream was lovely and creamy and the tart was lovely and (dare I say) moist. No big nasty chunks of pear in which I was fearing. As nice as it was, I got serious food envy when I saw the cheesecakes. They looked so good! My friends laughed at me for ordering the inferior pear tart and I grudgingly watched them enjoy their cheesecakes (the far more popular pudding choice). Isn’t it the way when even though the meal you’re eating is nice but you see something that looks more appealing suddenly your meal isn’t as good…just me?

However, I was very lucky that two of my friends didn’t finish their cheesecakes and passed them down to me! Now, on reflection, I can say the pear tart was the better pudding. I’m still not a chocolate orange fan and who serves cheesecake with orange sorbet?? But I can’t say I complained too much 😉 Though I felt very full afterwards!!  Just call me the human dustbin…

I did have a few gin and tonics as well, because it’s Christmas 😉 Though amusingly my first G&T didn’t actually contain any gin and I was sipping away thinking “this is lovely!” until the barman ran over to me and said he needed to put the gin in as it got taken before it was ready! Oops. Shows how much I drink!img_6940Anyway the evening was good. Nothing like good friends and good food to make you feel 100 times better.

Christmas meal number two this week 😀

Are you going to any Christmas parties or meals this year?

Will you be dressing up?

What would you normally order on a Christmas menu?

Riverside parkrun Review

I have another parkrun review for you today. It’s not one I’ve been to and, if I’m honest, I didn’t really know where it was! Being the Southerner I am I guess this isn’t too surprising as it’s all the way up North near Sunderland in County Durham. The review is brought to you by my lovely Twitter and running friend, Anji, AKA @EngimaGirl81.

[Psst! If you’d like to write me a review of your local parkrun or one you’ve been too, please email me at annatheapple@gmail.com – I’d love to hear from you!]

Over to Anji…

Stats: average finishers 161, 14:43/16:43 M/F, average time 26:48, number of runs 220

OK so I am biased. I met my fiance at Riverside parkrun so for me it will always be very special, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a whole bunch of other reasons to LOVE Riverside.Riverside-parkrunLocation: The North East is blessed with a number of parkruns in a very small area, Riverside often known as one of the fastest and flattest courses around. Riverside parkrun takes place in the beautiful Riverside park Chester Le Street, County Durham, just a stone’s throw from the famous Riverside Cricket ground home of Durham CCC.

Parking: Parking at the event is paid but a small fee which doesn’t kick in until 9am means you won’t have to break the bank. Make sure you arrive early and it really is hassle free.

Amenities: There are free toilets on site too situated right next to the start line. The cafe in the park is only just starting to open in time for parkrun day and despite the changing weather several parkrunners and beginning to take advantage. Before this and traditionally, runners often made the short drive up to Olivers Garden centre for a post run cuppa, bacon sandwich and a catch-up. They usually even put the log burners on for us meaning it’s super-cosy!

Course: Riverside parkrun can be affected by the levels of the river meaning there are a few variations of the course (I think I have done three!) but all of them can allow a fast time on a lap course. The current and most popular course begins in the centre of the park, runs one small lap to the river and back then two large laps taking in the whole of the park across a short grass section.riverside-parkrun-course

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Riverside is always brilliantly marshalled and well-marked out meaning even at the front of the field you won’t go wrong. Part of the riverside section can get a little crowded on your final lap but runners are always reminded to keep right to allow the faster runners through. The courses are all pretty at all times of the year, and the swans often come up to the paths to say hello making your parkrun photos quite striking! The finish is maybe the best part, the open flat stretch giving a great setting to a sprint finish.

Riverside has a real “family” feel to it with many of the marshal spots taken up by familiar faces. The run is well-managed by a great team of directors and as a volunteer you find yourself wanting to come back again and again.riverside-parkrun-teamOne of the marshal points on all three laps of the course “Bills bend” is so named as the same volunteer (Bill, obviously!) mans this station every week.

There’s also a pacing event once a month usually.

I have recently made the ultimate parkrun commitment by changing my Home Run to Riverside from Newcastle. I always feel like Riverside is like being with family, and I know it will be one of my favourite places for a very long time.

Thank you, Anji 🙂 You can follow Riverside parkrun on Twitter or Facebook for more information and updates.

What Northern parkruns have you done?

Do you have a regular set of marshals at your parkrun or is it always changing?

If you go to a cafe afterwards, what do you normally get?

The 5 Best Cars for Fitness Enthusiasts

Today I have a guest post regarding on the subject of cars (ooh er, bit different for me!) and the best one for your personality and needs.

You cycle to work, take the stairs instead of the lift, drink plenty of water, hit the gym five times a week, and always get your five-a-day – or at least you try to. If this sounds like you, you’re a bona fide fitness fanatic and a new car is never likely to be top of your list of priorities.

The trouble is, when it comes to cars, your needs are very specific – not only do you need something big enough to fit all of your weekend sports equipment into, it could do with being good on the gas for those trips to the coast and probably have four-wheel drive for when you venture out into the wilderness.

So here are the five best cars for all you fitness enthusiasts out there…

Nissan Qashqai

This is the model that has arguably come to define the crossover and SUV class and is an outstanding all-rounder with an excellent driving position, great handling, and surprisingly low running costs.

Inside, it has enough room for a full five-a-side team (including subs if you opt for the +2 version) a versatile boot with a fully adjustable shelf and a reversible floor with a wipe clean surface that’s perfect for muddy boots or sandy wetsuits.

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Skoda Yeti

The Skoda Yeti is a firm favourite among families and outdoor types alike as it is as adept at the school run as it is a cross-country run, particularly if you plump for the four-wheel-drive model.

And despite being one of the few crossovers that looks more like a good, old-fashioned estate car than a scaled down traditional 4X4, it handles the great outdoors better than most and is equally at home in a muddy field as on a motorway.

It has a versatile interior in which the rear seats create extra load space by moving independently or coming out completely.

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Citroen C4 Cactus

If the Qashqai and the Yeti look a little too run-of-the-mill, then look no further than the Citroen C4 Cactus – although it has no 4X4 option, it is chunky, has a relatively high wheel clearance and ‘Airbump’ panels on the sides that protect the body work from all sorts of scrapes.

It’s economical – some models promise up to 90mpg – and has a spacious interior and a good-sized boot. Not one for the off-roaders, but certainly a great option for those who like to stay on the beaten track.

Range Rover Evoque SUV

If you’re looking at the higher end of the SUV market then you need look no further than the Range Rover Evoque – it has all the handling and power you’d expect from a Range Rover, but with some seriously good looks and luxury interior.

In short, you can take this car absolutely anywhere – it’s just as at home tearing across an open field as it is pulling up outside an expensive restaurant.

And although they don’t come cheap, they do hold their value remarkably well.

Audi Q3 SUV

If you want a crossover with a little more refinement than a Nissan, a Citroen or a Skoda can offer, but can’t stretch as far as an Evoque – then the Q3 SUV is the car you’re looking for.

It re-houses the best of the A3 hatchback in a study SUV shell with an elevated driving position and a plush interior. And although it’s not as fuel-efficient as the others on the list, it’s great to drive and has bucket loads of space.

There’s even an RS model if you prefer your ride to have a bit more power and excitement.

Whether you prefer the down to earth ruggedness of the Yeti, or the refined thrills of the Evoque, the crossover you drive says a lot about your personality – find out exactly what your car says about you in the We Buy Any Car Personality Quiz.

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What car do you drive?

What do you look for in a good car?

Lots of running and a little bit of mud

From -5 degrees Celsius to the positively balmy 11 degrees today…what is going on? And the crazy snow in the US, this doesn’t bode well for us I don’t think for the future!

But anyway, I did quite enjoy going to parkrun on Saturday morning and not a) freezing or b) getting soaked. It was misty, a bit chilly but otherwise perfect weather. No wind!

My friend, Kelly, from my running club, and I joke every week about how we’re neck and neck in the Netley Abbey points table. She’s number one and I’m number two. To be fair, she’s quite a distance from me and it would take her not to turn up to parkrun quite a few times for me to catch up but it’s nice banter anyway. There’s more chance of the number three lady overtaking me at the moment! I’d love it if Kelly and I both got podium places for the leadership board this year. I think there’s only about eight weeks or so left.

The parkrun itself felt really good. There was no wind, which definitely helped, but I felt speedier running. It was still tough going and the effort level was high but I was running a faster pace. And Royal flush negative splits! For so long I’ve had trouble with getting negative splits for 5ks but now I seem to have found the magic. Holding back a little at the start really does help.parkrun

My time was 22:31 which is my fastest parkrun since August (and that includes the Southampton parkrun at the start of the year which is so much more flat) and my fastest ever on the winter course. I’ll take that! Turns out hill training and my long runs seem to be working 🙂

Saturday evening I went round my friend’s house for a girlie evening with some other friends. We had takeaway and lots of moreish crisps (cheesy Doritos, why do you taste so damn good??). It was such a relaxed evening. Before we met up one of my friend’s messaged saying she just fancied wearing some comfy jeggings and a large jumper, and I said my hair would be scraped back into a pony tail and I’d be wearing my glasses and my other friends agreed on making zero effort – because that’s what friends are about: comfort and no judgement! Love evenings like that.

The next morning I got a nice lie-in as I’d planned to do the local cross country race which started at 11am and I was going to run there to make it into a long run. This meant I could set of after 9am. I ran 10 miles from Stubbington to Hedge End, which is actually quite an undulating route! I’d planned the route the night before and tried to remember the different road names I needed to take, but still somehow I got it wrong. It blew my mind when I popped out of a junction and found myself in a familiar area but of which I had never intended to get to. Thankfully and amazingly my route came to an almost perfect 10 miles (8.07min/mile ave).

10 miles

I arrived at the cross country race location, in Manor Farm, a bit earlier than anticipated (better to have had more time than be late though!). I found some of my Hedgie team mates and also the lovely couple who had looked after my bag as I needed to change into my Hedge End vest and my trail trainers.IMG_7788

It was chilly but not that cold and thankfully not raining. It was definitely squidgy and muddy underfoot though. The race started in a bit of a kerfuffle unfortunately as the path up to the start line was basically the same path we’d have to run down. This meant that trying to get past the start line to line-up (and past the speedies at the front) was quite tricky, especially as people weren’t keen to go all the way to the back. So in the end you just have a wall of people not moving, but facing directly at you ready to start – despite 1/3 of people still not actually behind the start yet!

The race itself was good fun. I definitely felt the previous miles on my legs at the beginning though. I’d already decided to continue with the same effort as before (long run speed) – though this would obviously mean slower in general as the terrain was so up and down and very muddy and technical underfoot. I wasn’t racing or pushing it as this would have been silly for me.IMG_7800

Photo credit: Becky Woollard

Despite this it was still really hard going. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it though. The mud and windy paths were fun to run and it was always interesting. I did get mud splashed in my eye though my an over-zealous puddle splasher. It actually burned!IMG_7803

Photo credit: Becky Woollard

I knew that the race would end on a rather awful hill and when I got to it and checked with my team mate, Keith, running beside me that this was the end. It was. Otherwise I would have walked it if I still had a distance to go, but as I knew this was it I desperately tried to plough up it. Keith was amazing next to me keeping me going and encouraging me on.Manor Farm cross country (3)

Photo credit: Alan

The above photo is literally on the hill. I was fully aware of the camera but it was far more important to push up the hill and not die than try and smile and look relatively OK! Some of my team mates (and friends from other clubs) were at the top and shouted encouragement as well which was much appreciated!Manor Farm cross country splits

I’m really pleased with the splits and how I got on. I think I came 36th female overall? I can’t remember as I was in that much of a daze after the hill and possibly fourth in my club out of the ladies. Not too shabby!

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I was covered in mud but chuffed. I’m so glad I didn’t bother cleaning my trail shoes beforehand either!

Cross country muddy legs

It was quite amusing putting my really muddy trail shoes on before the race as my socks were so clean in comparison!IMG_7795

Some of the Hedgie gang (Photo credit: Kate Maslin)

I had planned to stick around for cake (obviously) but my dad was picking me up and the refreshments area was apparently a long way a way. With a heavy and sad heart I headed to meet my dad. No cake for me 🙁

My dad had brought a number of bin bags for me to sit on, get into and generally keep the car clean as I’d pre-warned him about the mud. It worked quite well!IMG_7794

A terrible photo but basically me sitting inside a bin bag in the car

When I got home he suggested I wash the trainers…good idea! I don’t have an outdoors area or hose to do it at my flat or anywhere to keep them drying so I could utilise my parent’s facilities.IMG_7797

It worked quite well. I didn’t actually realise my dad was taking a photo of me at the time… I was trying not to splash myself which really was pointless considering how muddy I was anyway!IMG_7799

Ahh, look how shiny and clean they look! I don’t plan on doing any more cross country races in the future so hopefully these will stay relatively clean now (which I realise is kind of silly considering they’re trail shoes…). They’re now drying off in my parent’s garage – stuck on two poles to air properly.

The rest of the day I spent at my flat, chilling out and just resting. I was very tried from the long run and cross country but it was one of those satisfied feeling of tiredness. I watched random TV, read my book (Station Eleven – very good) and went on some nice walks with Alfie. I even treated myself to a cheeky Starbucks.IMG_7796

What did you get up to this weekend?

Do you combine long runs with other events to make them a bit more interesting?

What do you prefer: starting a race on a hill or ending a race on a hill? I prefer starting on a hill as the entire cross country race I was just dreading that hill.