The best parkrun?

My dad turned 60 in February and for his present I bought him a Taste of Thai cookery course at the Waitrose Cookery School in Salisbury. I decided to get myself one too so I could do it with him.

Salisbury isn’t that far from my parent’s house and the cooking course didn’t start until 10am so I floated the idea of doing Salisbury parkrun beforehand. My dad honestly loves supporting my running so was happy with this plan.

We left at 6.30am to get there with enough time to find it and park/faff about. Actually we made such good time and got there and parked at 7.40am. With some time to kill we decided to walk to find a coffee spot and some breakfast for my dad (I don’t eat breakfast before parkrun).

We settled on a McDonald’s as Starbucks wasn’t open yet (seriously). My dad had a bacon roll thing which in the great scheme of McDonald’s was actually that bad in terms of being healthy. I think it was around 400 calories. I had a black coffee.

Then we walked to the parkrun. We could have parked in the actually park but to be honest the walk was nice as the morning was so sunny and, as my dad commented, we were getting our steps in.The parkrun area was easy to find and the park (Churchill Gardens) was beautiful. Lots of winding paths, a pretty river, and a skate park and play area for kids.It was a really good set-up. The parkrun area was already fairly busy (it was about 8.45am) and suddenly an elaborate warm-up began.At first I thought maybe a boot camp class had randomly started near us but no it was actually a person leading a proper dynamic warm-up – all high knees, squats and lunges going on! I was rather impressed. There were quite a lot of people as well – and most of them doing the warm-up.I noticed a box of clappers next to the volunteer table which I thought was brilliant. It meant volunteers could grab one and enthusiastically cheer people on. There was also a guest book to sign for tourists, which I did of course.I quite liked the sign for returning the barcodes as well, the parkrunosaurus! It’s a cuddly toy dinosaur mascot!

The course was four laps around the park, which at first I thought sounded a bit, well, repetitive. But actually it was a really lovely course. It was very flat, apart from a slight incline and then decline at one point, but really nothing horrendous.

Photo Credit: James Ballard

It was very busy at the start and the path was fairly narrow but it kept me from doing anything crazy like going off too fast. Along the course there were some signs which I thought were such a lovely touch, such as “Lizzie’s Corner” and the toilet one below was right next to the public loos.I loved the motivational ones as well and had to whip out my phone to take a photo. There were probably 4-5 of them, saying motivational things as well as humorous ones. Unfortunately after taking the photo I didn’t put my phone back in my FlipBelt securely and it fell out, luckily on the grass. So I had to race back to pick it up quickly.

What was also a nice touch was the fact that they have paces every week. I thought I was just lucky enough to be there for a pacing event but apparently it happens regularly. Which made sense that one guy had his very own personalised pacing top on. I tried to stay in front of Mr 24 Minutes as I was aiming to dip below that.As the parkrun continued on I felt myself getting stronger and more confident. It was good to see my dad three times as well.It was also nice coming back past the main marshal area as the noise of so many clappers was really encouraging. As well as this, there was a stereo playing music in one section which was great. Honestly, this parkrun was just fantastic. It was like they’d thought of everything! And it was only their 99th parkrun (I was sad to not be there for their 100th as it sounded like they were going to have a good event with fancy dress and cakes). Though there was a dinosaur running (I imagine he was rather hot!).Basically it was such a fantastic parkrun – one of the best I’ve done. The volunteers were just super. I mean, seriously this guy high-fived pretty much everyone!

Photo Credit: James Ballard

I finished 41st with 22:36 which I’m happy with (actually looking at my previous parkrun times I’ve slowly sped up from 22:43, 22:39 to 22:36 which feels quite nice!).Then my dad and I had to head sharpish back towards the car. I walked to Starbucks, ordered another coffee (decaf this time) and got changed in the toilets. My dad picked me up and we got to the cookery class with 5 minutes to spare. Honestly, this was such a military operation that was carried out with such perfect precision! Unfortunately what we didn’t realise was that breakfast (well, yogurt, fruit and bacon rolls) had been provided of which we missed! I wasn’t too bothered though. Food wasn’t going to be an issue that day!The course was great. It’s run by Waitrose and is actually in the Waitrose supermarket, but in a little side area in a professional kitchen.We first watched the chef run through the recipe, while giving us good little tips and tricks (such as leaving meat out a good time before cooking so the fibres relax so stops the meat becoming tough, and using a spoon to peel ginger, and lots more!). The first recipe was chilli caramel chicken with hot and sour salad.We then tried it out for ourselves. We had lots of help if we got stuck or forgot what to do but it was fairly easy (and fun!).This was so tasty! A little hot but not too spicy. More aromatic and warming – lots of ginger, garlic, lime, sweetness from palm sugar, saltiness from fish sauce and freshness from coriander.We worked in pairs (me with my dad obviously) and had a portion each. Some people decided to portion up one on a plate and then put the other portion in a container to take back home. As I hadn’t had breakfast and it was almost midday my dad and me agreed to eat our portions there and then. Everyone sat back down at the table (there were 12 of us in total), which had now been relaid and had wine and soft drinks available. It was lovely! The meal was very tasty.

Then we saw prawn pad Thai being made and then tried it out ourselves.Though the flavours were still delicious, I was less a fan of this as I’m really not a noodle lover. There was a lot of noodles in comparison to how many king prawns there were. We potted one portion and shared, though didn’t finish, this portion (it was quite large!).

The next recipe was a duck curry.This was really tasty. A coconut milk-based sauce, and more aromatic than hot or spicy.This was SO good. We had the curry with white rice, deep-fried shallot slices and another fresh salad. The colours were amazing and the flavours just popped. We both ate our portions of this!

I chose a Thai cookery course for my dad because I know he loves the food and I thought it might be a fun one to do because of all the flavours – plus it’s not very “everyday style cooking”, you know? I’m not a big Thai food fan but I really enjoyed this and loved the food we made. It’s definitely changed my mind a bit!

I now have a good few recipes to take away and try myself at some point. I fully recommend the Waitrose Cookery School – very thorough, professional, FUN, and a great way to learn general cooking skills as well as specific recipes and cuisines. (This isn’t a sponsored post, I bought both places for the course.)

My dad and me went home very satisfied and my dad said he loved the present 🙂

Have you ever done a cookery class before?

What’s your favourite cuisine?

What makes a good parkrun?

Rants and Raves #36

Things have been fairly busy round here but I thought I’d drop in a little Rants and Raves posts because I do like getting these things off my chest 😉

Rant: So I bought new trainers straight after the Tokyo Marathon because I thought I’d like a fresh start and all that jazz. I’m a Mizuno, Brooks and ASICS fan, but I do tend to favour Mizuno. Or at least I did. I’ve actually been loving running in my Brooks Adrenaline GTS’s but Mizuno’s are a bit cheaper and in general I seem to wear them more. So for around £50 on Amazon I found my usual trainers and went for them.They’re the Mizuno Wave Paradox 2 – in such a lovely colour. I wore them on a few of my post-marathon runs and then hurt my ankle/lower calf. Since then I’ve not worn these trainers again. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the trainers that caused my injury and most likely was the fact that I jumped straight back into some tough running less than a week after a marathon…but my irrational brain doesn’t want to wear the trainers now! I know this is ridiculous. My Brooks will be seeing the end of their time soon and it seems ridiculous to buy another pair of new trainers just because I’ve convinced myself the above trainers aren’t good. Does anyone else get these irrational fears (almost superstitions) about things like this?

Rant: Easter eggs sitting in my living room but aren’t for me.Ahh the daily temptation. I’ve bought a selection of eggs for family and friends and I did this early so there wouldn’t be an issue closer to Easter. On that note, isn’t it ridiculous just how many eggs are sold over Easter? Supermarkets have stacks and stacks of them and yet still they’ll be a dearth of supplies the closer it gets to Easter. It does make me worry about the amount of food packaging waste generated…I hope people recycle where they can.

Also, let’s ignore that that’s a Lindt reindeer and not a bunny. I was going to buy a bunny when my mum told me she had one I could have instead as my parents don’t want any eggs or chocolate as they’re trying to be more healthy. However, it turns out she had a spare reindeer instead – from Christmas. *Sighs*

Rave: Being an adult now (well, in terms of my age anyway I suppose), I don’t get many Easter eggs. My parents still treat me to one. I’m very cheeky and ask for a ludicrously expensive one. However because I’m all “sad and alone with no one to love me” (I believe this is how my mother thinks of me now) they buy this to make up for things (“things” being that very generic and all-encompassing term for the fact that I’m still single). Behold the Extra Thick Patisserie Egg from Hotel Chocolat.

It contains *clears throat* two egg halves, one 50% milk chocolate and pecan praline to be like a pecan pie and the other caramel chocolate, mascarpone, yoghurt and pinch of salt to be like a salted caramel cheesecake. And the full of chocolates themed as puddings, such as carrot cake, treacle tart, Eton mess and fudge sundae, amongst others. The hardship will be trying to not eat this all at once – I think I might die of sugar overload otherwise.

Rant: And speaking of being all single and alone (by the way, this is entirely tongue and cheeky – I actually am very happy right now. If you intend on pitying me, please leave immediately), I have one dress that I can’t wear unless I’m getting changed at someone else’s house.It’s impossible. I can’t do up the back. I can’t do it up before I get into it because it’s too tight then to get over my shoulders or hips, and I can’t reach around because the buttons are tiny. When people make dresses they need to consider single people!

Whew, actually quite a few rants today!

Natruflex Supplement – The Naked Pharamacy

And lastly I have a review from a company called The Naked Pharmacy. This company is a “natural pharmacy dedicated to evidence-based natural medicines, nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals” [Source]. I was sent the Natruflex product.

This contains a high strength of turmeric and black pepper which provides a daily dose of 760mg total Curcuminoids and 19mg Piperine (95% strength of both active ingredients). Apparently these give joint and muscular benefits, reducing discomfort. The supplement also contains magnesium.

The supplement is gluten-free, suitable for vegetarians and not tested on animals.I had a little look on examine.com (which is a great website for checking scientific claims of supplements) and it seems there’s some evidence behind curcuminoid as being helpful to the body. But I’m neither a pharmacist nor a doctor (or anything science-related) so this is a very laymen point of view. I can’t say I’ve felt a huge difference but it is something I’d continue to take as I know how good turmeric is supposed to be for inflammation and, let’s be honest, I need all the help I can get to avoid injuries!

And finally, a lovely little Rave to finish off with. SUNSHINE! At the beach no less! Good days are coming, wheeee!

How are you enjoying these sunnier days?

Do you use turmeric to boost your body?

What Easter egg, if any, are you planning on eating?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the supplement from The Naked Pharmacy for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

XRunner Wild Mud Run recap

So this weekend I was back up in Bristol again. As standard procedure, I stayed with Kate and Jamie and they cooked me another very tasty meal of make-your-own burritos.

I’m only just realising how much I enjoy Mexican (or at least, Tex-Mex) food. Tortillas, turkey mince, refried beans, guacamole, rice and salad… heavenly. I brought pudding. I was aiming for healthy without fruit, but that fell flat as I gave up and just went for lemon meringue pie with lemon meringue ice cream (yes, this is an actual thing).Biscuit flavoured ice cream (biscuit!!) with lemon curd and meringue pieces. I mean, you might have thought that that was a bit too much lemon meringue in one bowl but you’d be wrong.

So we were nicely fuelled for our next day’s adventure, the X-Runner Wild Mud Run 10k. Now this obviously isn’t great for marathon training but it is great for general fun and happiness. We were in the 11.30am wave (200-400 runners set off in half an hour waves) and had to be there an hour before. This meant leaving at about 8am as it was just north of Birmingham. The team consisted of Kate, Jay, Jay’s friend Alex, the lovely Katherine (who has done a lot of parkruns and the escape room with us), Kate’s sister Becky and me.Parking was easy (and £5) and it was a short walk down to the race village. As we got closer and closer we could see a lake and lots of obstacles. We also saw people who had already finished the race from earlier waves trudging past us, soaked and muddy. *Gulp*We picked up our numbers (not a bib, but a wristband – bibs apparently wouldn’t survive), our t-shirts (which we’d be wearing to run in – something I’d never do for a running race but strangely acceptable for an obstacle race) and signed a disclaimer. Then we wrote our numbers on our forehead.This was advised so that the photographers could identify us easily. Plus it made us look bad ass. Sort of. The race village had lots of food trucks (ahh the smell of food you can’t eat…), a bag drop and fire pits. Let me tell you, more races need fire pits. It was fairly chilly that morning and standing next to a fire pit while we were waiting to go to our wave was AMAZING.Then we were off. We weren’t aiming for a time, we just wanted fun. Obstacle races are never about finish times really because you want to “enjoy” them and there’s always a little wait for each obstacle anyway. There’s also a camaraderie element where everyone helps each other, roots people on and you wait for your team mates (or they wait for you). It’s just a fun thing to do and the running is far down the list of what it’s actually about.

The first few obstacles were things like hay bales and climbing over walls, which were good fun. Then we had to run up a bloody big hill which really separated the people in the wave. The beginning was probably where most of the running happened, from running up hills to running through trees, fields and woodlands. After a few minutes of running you’d hit another obstacle.

One thing that concerned me was the organiser’s stress of DO NOT DRINK THE WATER or get it in your mouth. This was due to bacteria within the water that could potentially make you ill. So every time we came near a water section or splashed through large puddles I held my mouth firmly closed.

The first water experience wasn’t too bad as we were quite warm by this point. It was up to your bum (quite a shock to the nether regions I must say!). We had to duck under barbed wire which was good fun and not that difficult.This was just as we were coming out of the water. I was feeling all happy and chippy. Barely a speck of mud on me!

A few more obstacles, a couple more stretches of running and then we hit some trenches of very muddy water. It was tough because you couldn’t see where you were putting your feet and I consequently ended up falling down a hole within the water so I was quickly up to my chest in water. My friends laughed and I found it very funny, though shockingly cold. Little did we know what was to come.

As we came round the corner there were long stretches of mud. A bit like a really muddy cross country route that had been run on several times over, churning up the mud. Running through seemed better as we were less likely to sink to our ankles. But as we got further through the mud we caught up with more and more people and realised why there was a bottleneck.The mud that was up to our ankles was now up to our knees. It was very thick and required a lot of strength to wade through. And as we wading through we got deeper and deeper. It was such a bizarre experience. I’ve never been in so much mud in my life. I was using my hands to comb through it and no longer cared about how muddy I was getting.

What was unnerving the most though was not knowing where to put your feet because some parts were a lot deeper than others. Some people decided not to follow the queue of people and headed out around them only to find themselves up to their chests in the thick mud and getting stuck.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it took like 30 minutes to get across about 15m of mud. It was just impossible. Lots of people had decided to skip the section by going under the course partition to avoid it because it was getting to be a bit ridiculous. I had to use the help of several people around me to pull myself out at times. And often having to use my arms to tug my legs out of the mud to keep moving. You could find yourself panicking a bit because it was rather scary being so stuck in the mud and sinking.

Several people lost trainers. After we finished the mud section (sorry, the swamp section), a girl was stood holding both her trainers (well, what looked like trainers anyway…they were completely coated in mud and looked like two muddy boulders) standing in her socks.

Eventually we made it to the part I was most dreading. The swimming part. This involved going up a ladder to a platform to then slide down into a body of water. I was quite cold by this point as the mud part had taken so long and I had lost the warmth I’d gained from all the exertion bits before. I was really not wanting to do this. But as my team were doing it so I had to man up.That there is the face of someone who has accepted her fate but is not one bit happy.The shock of the water took my breath away as we all slid down together and were fully submerged. And I couldn’t get out fast enough. A few swear words might have been said, I won’t lie.

Getting out of the water I was more numb than cold now. It was quite a strange feeling. But as we got running again I started to get very cold. Our next obstacle were monkey bars across more water. I gave it a good go and think I managed three before my slippery hands gave up on me and I dropped myself into the water. AGAIN.

Then we had to get across some floating yellow square things. It was tricky to balance.Then back into the water again. Enjoyment factor now was slightly lower as the cold was really hitting me. A large hill awaited us and I charged up it as fast as I could to get warm again.

We were then faced with a GIANT slippy slide which was just awesome. I slid down on my tummy all the way down a 50m slide-y mat thing and it was just brilliant.

We then had a few more obstacles to get through. The water had cleaned off most of the mud so that was somewhat of a plus!At this point we were nearing the end of the first lap (5k). I was starting to shake with col. It had taken us almost an hour and a half at this point. The thought of going round again (but this time now soaking wet and cold) wasn’t appealing to me at all.

We had a little team meeting as we ran to the next obstacle and decided to just do the one lap. It would take us probably almost four hours in total otherwise (imaging it would be about two hours for another lap as it had already taken 1:30 hours and we weren’t finished yet). This made me feel a lot better knowing we were almost finished!We climbed over things, jumped over some fire (as you do) and then had the final obstacle: jumping off a tower platform thing into a giant mattress. I was like, “pfft! This is fine”. Until I got up there.In the photo above you can see me turn away basically saying “I can’t do this”. Kate was lovely and gave me lots of encouragement but I was really quite scared. This surprised and annoyed me. The marshals told us we needed to land bum first rather than feet first and I was worried I’d cock up and then injure myself.

After having a word with myself, I went for it (after about four false starts). I screamed all the way down but it was actually good fun and the landing ridiculously soft. I felt really chuffed with myself! I thought I was made of stronger stuff, but this really tested me.

And then we were finished, whew!! Even though we didn’t do the two laps and only did 5k, it was the hardest 5k I’ve ever done. I thought this would be fairly easy – a few hay bales to clamber over, a few muddy bits to get a bit mucky in and la di da. But this was really hard work. The mud swamp was crazy, the hills so steep and the water FREEZING.

But that said, it was bloody good fun! Though I did get very cold at the end I don’t regret doing it and would do it again for definite. It was just a good laugh and a challenging day. I’m disappointed with myself that we didn’t do another lap but I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have enjoyed it, knowing I had to do the water bit all again.We were given our medals, a hot soup and the foil blankets. I have never been so glad to see foil in my life.

Then we headed to the cold showers (otherwise known as hoses) and showered off as best as we could. The worst part was trying to find my bag. It was not an easy process and their bag drop system needs some serious rethinking. I was on the point of freezing despair when I finally found it.

We trudged back to the car and then had the almost impossible task of getting dried and changed without exposing ourselves to the world. We’d brought towels and a spare set of clothes…the process was not fun. I was so cold. But eventually we were in the car, heating on full and heading for food. Bliss.

We stopped at a services and, with our foreheads still branded and us all looking disgusting and dishevelled, we each grabbed our respective food choice. It was now 3pm and we were all VERY hungry. I went for a foot-long turkey Subway with a Starbucks. Oh that Starbucks tasted SO good. Life was good again.Then we headed home. I was staying the night again with Kate and Jamie and she kindly washed my clothes for me. Though we had to do a bit of hosing down beforehand…And then relax! Obstacle and mud runs are really nothing like road races. Or running races in general. No one cares about time (well, most people don’t) and you run as a group. It’s about having a laugh, getting muddy and helping each other out.It’s also about not underestimating how tough it’s going to be. I thought I was going to be absolutely fine because I can run faster than most of my team. But it’s 100% not about the speed you can run, or how many marathons you’ve done. It’s about grit, mental strength and the ability to keep going despite all your sense being assaulted at once. I was definitely tested and my ego took a beating – something which I think regularly needs to happen!

Have you ever done a mud/obstacle race?

What really challenges you?

If you had to choose what would you rather: be really cold, be really hungry or really tired? I think it’s the cold for me. Though I can become a right moody so and so when I haven’t eaten, I can survive. But a cold Anna is not a happy Anna at all.

Currently – March

Thursday, hurrah! Or as I like to call it…Friday Eve 😉 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 😉 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?

My third Bristol parkrun and a tough long run

It seems like I’m in Bristol at the weekend more than I am in Southampton at the moment. I drove up there on Friday after work to stay over with my friends, Kate and Jamie, so Kate and I could then drive together to Cardiff for my other friend’s baby shower.

I never really need an excuse to go to Bristol if I’m honest. I love it there and Kate and Jamie are brilliant hosts. And Jay always cooks a mean dinner! We had roast chicken, salad, wedges and wraps.He’d used a BBQ rub on the chicken and it was delicious. I was in charge of pudding, which is always a bit dangerous. I bought a dessert pizza (I only recently found out this was a thing!) and some ice cream.Ben and Jerry’s Blondie Brownie is my absolute favourite (it has that salted caramel core and big chunks of blondie and brownie in it, divine!) and Jude’s was on offer (brown butter pecan) so I thought, ahh why not.The dessert pizza was actually quite disappointing. This might have been because it defrosted on the way to Bristol and then we over-baked it. It was just a bit dry and boring. However, with the ice cream it worked very nicely. Needless to say we all felt very full and slightly sick and I had memories of Orlando…

I’d managed to persuade my friends to go to a different parkrun the next morning rather than Pomphrey Hill that we usually go to. I’ve never been to Ashton Court parkrun and a (very speedy) friend from Southampton was coincidentally also going to be there so it seemed nice time to test it out.It was a beautifully sunny morning but still fairly cold. I didn’t take a coat with me and was feeling very chilly, though the sunshine definitely helped. Kate and Jamie brought their lovely little pug, Doug, with them as their parents were popping down to watch us run so could look after him. I also met a very lovely blog reader. Hello Liz!Ashton Court parkrun is a very interesting parkrun. The course is basically 1.5~ miles straight uphill and then 1.5~ miles straight downhill. My Southampton friend gave some good advice on how to run it, basically saying that you needed to push it on the first half as this is where you got your time. Going downhill is easy so there’s no worry about effort level there. So give it hell for the first bit and grit your teeth through the pain!

It was quite a busy parkrun, surprisingly given how intimidating the course was (over 500 people). I decided to listen to some music to get my head in the zone. Annoyingly I hadn’t got myself to a decent spot in the start (which was very busy) as I was faffing around and I hadn’t found satellites on my Garmin either, which meant my run was messed up on Strava.

But anyway, I got going. The beginning is on the flat so you can sort of get yourself going before you then start trekking uphill. It really was a grind. I just kept pushing, feeling the good vibes from my music and letting people overtake me.

Then, disaster, my music went from rocking motivating tunes to… Bear’s Den. I love Bear’s Den. But I love it when I’m chilling out not when I’m trying to maintain a hard effort level. Arrrrghhh! So I had to ferret into my FlipBelt and get my phone out to change the track – no idea why Bear’s Den was on my running playlist! But on the plus side, it meant I could snap a photo as I was running.

As ever, the photo doesn’t do justice to the hill

Though the hill was hard, I knew it would be over fairly soon. As we got past the steepest point and headed to the turnaround bit (the speedier runners now hurtling downhill, including my friend – who by the way did this in around 18:40!) the end was in sight. I reached the halfway turnaround and headed back downhill…but now the wind was in my face. Luckily this was only really because we were quite high and had no shelter, so as we got to the steepest downhill section the wind disappeared.

Photo Credit: John O’Brien

And the fun began. I’ve never run so fast in my life! I’ve never looked at speed bumps with genuine concern that I might fall over one if my foot was placed wrongly. I managed to overtake quite a few people who had previously overtaken me which was nice. And then we reached the last flat bit before the finish…ooof this was hard because suddenly I couldn’t maintain that super fast speed anymore but had to hang on as best as I could.

Photo Credit: John O’Brien

I came in at 22:39, which I was buzzing about because it was faster than last week’s Netley!And I was happy with my fastest ever mile on that downhill. I’ll take that!

Kate and Jamie enjoyed it too which made me happy. They’d recently done the Bath Half Marathon and hadn’t enjoyed it that much so it was nice for them to feel the love of running again. Where better than at parkrun, eh?Kate and I then had to get sorted and showered and sorted fairly pronto as we were driving to Cardiff for our friend’s baby shower.

We arrived at midday and found Shell making her own sandwiches for the baby shower (tut tut, Rob!) so we quickly took over while Shell could relax and look her lovely (pregnant!) self.It was a lovely afternoon. We ate lots of really tasty food; I love a buffet, and the food was rather posh! (Think M&S).And played lots of fun games that her sister, Rebecca, had organised. We did a baby-focused quiz which was actually quite tough and then a crafts-focused game. We had to design baby socks for a career that we were given on a piece of paper. Mine was a baker.I’m actually quite impressed at my craft-skills. Basic but not entirely terrible!Everyone did really well: (L:R) teacher, movie star, astronaut, baker (I did two socks for some reason), musician, vet, athlete and doctor.

Then we wrote advice on the back of puzzle pieces for the baby to read later in life. Here are mine:Wise, I think 😉

Then I headed back to Southampton. The next morning I was up at 8.30am to run a long run with my friend, Mark, and a triathlete called James who joined us. Both are a lot faster than me but thankfully they were happy to go around 8 minute miles. They wanted about 13 miles and I wanted 16 so I ran over a mile to our meeting point and planned to run a mile and a bit back. It was a very sunny and warm morning and for some stupid reason I was wearing long sleeves.

The run was really very hard. The pace wasn’t crazy but there was a gusty wind coming from all directions which tested me. The temperature didn’t help and, let’s be honest, the food over the past few days and just my general fitness wasn’t the best.

I started to struggle from about eight miles I think but it was an overly mental thing rather than my legs not working. It helped chatting to James and Mark and this took my mind off things. But as we got to around 10 miles I realised I was quite thirsty.

Mark was great at keeping me going and tolerated me moaning (he has withstood many of my moanings at parkrun, bless him). He’s aiming for a sub 3:05 at Brighton in a few weeks so he’s in great shape right now…whereas I felt like I was crawling at times.

When we got back to the starting point, James had a bottle of water and was so kind to let me guzzle down a load. I felt a lot better! I also felt a lot better knowing I had about 1.5 miles of running on my own, which meant I could slow down if I wanted to. Surprisingly though I kept the pace up. Though when I was finished I really was finished.The rest of the day was like a sleepwalk. I was tired, lethargic and just hazy. I made sure to drink lots of water (with electrolytes) and eat good solid meals but I went to bed that night drained.

(I didn’t forget Mother’s Day. I’m taking my mum to London in April for lunch at Jamie’s Fifteen. She spent the day with my sister seeing Beauty and the Beast. I was grateful to have the day to myself if I’m honest – I know, terrible daughter – because I was just so tired. I wouldn’t have been great company!)

So a good weekend which left me exhausted!

How do you recover after a hard long run?

What’s the most interesting parkrun course you’ve done?

What’s your favourite Ben and Jerry’s flavour?