All the running and all the food

Two things in life make me very happy (amongst other things of course, but in general these two rank pretty high). Food and running. And these things have been going nicely hand in hand over the last few days.

So you know I said I love my new job? Well I REALLY love my new job. On the last Friday of the month Wiggle organise a run and a cycle for everyone to join in with, if they want. For the last couple of months I haven’t been able to join in, either due to coming back from injury or just not fitting in with my running schedule. But this month I was good to go finally!

They had a few different events you could sign up to: a speedy cycle, a mountain bike session in Queen Elizabeth Country Park, a gentle 5k, a trail 7k I’m QECP or a scavenger hunt walk. So it’s very inclusive. You didn’t have to do any but it was all free and started at 2.30pm Friday. I signed up to the trail run and was feeling excited. I had actually won an internal competition as well so had some brand new season dhb gear to test out too.Friday was also the national Macmillan bake sale so there was a ridiculous number of cakes floating about the office too. Happiness all round! I’d already come pre-prepared with cash ready to donate and invest in some solid pre-run fuel. I actually wolfed down my porridge at double speed when I saw them putting the cakes out as I didn’t want to miss any of the good stuff (I have s genuine fear of food running out. It’s a symptom of being the greedy person I am).So before 9.30am I’d already eaten my porridge, a peanut butter brownie, a questionable vegan brownie, a sausage roll and a GIANT scotch egg (with bacon in it). It was incredible.My work colleagues laughed at me in wonder. I like food, what can I say! 

By 2.30pm everyone who wanted to get involved was changed and ready to share lifts to their destination. We arrived in short time to QECP and got going. The group was a nice mixed bunch of men and women, some super speedy and some less so. The pace was nice and easy though the hills were sharp and frequent. We actually followed some of the parkrun route. We’d stop and walk for a but so people could catch up or catch their breath and it was a lovely amble through the beautiful countryside. The trail was a bit muddy and slippy with some tree roots and rocks about but nothing too technical. I got to know a few more of my work buddies better and chat to people I didn’t know, which was just great. Some were avid ultra marathoners, some occasional parkrunners so it was a nice mix. I find it so easy to chat to people who I already have the common ground of running with.The 7k flew by and I felt great. A few of the guys suggested another 7k loop and after a moment’s deliberation (and a quick calculation of mileage) I decided to join. I think there were about seven of us in total that did the second loop. I was a bit worried that they’d shoot off as they were all quite speedy but hey promised not to leave me behind. And asides from the first 1km straight up a giant hill, it was fine and I felt quite comfortable running.We didn’t push the pace to any extremes but we didn’t stop this time. I actually felt really good. I forget how much I love running off-road and should really do it more.At the end we grabbed a quick drink in the cafe and then one of the guys drove me back to the office to collect my car. It was a lovely way to end the week!

I got back to my parent’s house (which is now where I live) and had a lovely hot shower and a light dinner. I say a light dinner only because my lovely mum and brought me back a few pieces of cake from her bake sale at the hospital where she works. A scone, a slice of Victoria sponge, a slice of lemon drizzle cake and a chocolate crispy cake…well I was done!The next morning I was up early to catch the train to Reading to meet up with my friend, George, who I used to work with at my old job (I also did the Tough Mudder event with him a while ago) and his fiancée. He’s such a nice guy (and his partner is lovely too!) and we’re very likeminded in our love of food. In fact they have a blog which they’ve recently just started (check out their CookNoBook Instagram). The plan was to do the Reading parkrun and then go for lunch. They’ve never done a parkrun before so I was more than happy to introduce them to it.Amazingly I got to theirs without a hitch and we headed to Thames Valley Park where the parkrun was held. It was super busy and cars were parked all along the road. We parked a little walk away and got there just before the first timer’s brief.The course is nice and flat and relatively simple. A straight run out over a small bridge and then two laps around the country park bit. It goes alongside the Thames and the rather was thankfully just a little chilly but the sky was blue.

Ala, George’s partner, isn’t a regular runner so was a little nervous but we were all looking forward to it. George is like a Duracell bunny and has tons of energy. He’s in good shape from lots of martial arts. I wedged myself towards the front so I wouldn’t get too crushed or held back and George and Ala headed further back. I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel after the run the day before by as soon as we got going I felt good and decided just to see what I could do.

The first km or so is on grass and it was a little slippy but then you get onto more compact trail and it was fine, although with a few muddy patches and puddles to jump over.  As we got through the first loop I worked out what kind of speed I could hold onto and planned when to push the pace a bit more. It’s nice having two laps because you can be a bit more strategic about how you can pace without rinsing yourself too soon.As we came over the bridge again and headed on the finishing straight back to the beginning it did seem to go on forever however and it took a lot of effort to keep pushing. I managed to overtake a couple of people at the end and finished in 21:46 with a negative split. Very happy indeed. George, who I thought would overtake me at some point, was just behind in 22:01. Damn those two seconds! For his first parkrun and his first crack at running in a while that’s insane!! Nicely done indeed. Ala came in not too long behind us around 28 minutes. Again, this is amazing for her first parkrun and her not being a regular runner! I’m so happy for them! And they enjoyed it too 🙂 they said they felt very accomplished.From there we headed back to theirs to shower and get sorted. Then we headed out for some coffee, followed by lunch. The lunch spot, Bluegrass BBQ, was everything and more that I could have dreamed for. BBQ fodder at its best.We were eager beavers and actually had to walk round the block before the breakfast menu turned over to the lunch menu at 11:45. When it came to ordering, I went for the Boss Pit Platter with a side of frickles (fried pickles).My god it was good. I was glad I ventured away from my usual safe bet of just having ribs and having a platter of different things to try. There were baby back ribs, brisket, pulled pork, burnt ends, 1/4 chicken, cobs and a mountain of chips. I traded George some brisket for one of his St. Louis ribs and I was all set!
I couldn’t manage all the chips or frickles but everything else was hoovered up. God it was good. No room for pudding though for once! We did a little bit of walking after lunch (an absolute necessity to help digestion…) and headed to a lovely local event called Reading Town Meal. It’s a great event supporting the local community and fresh produce. It had chefs in training from the Reading University cooking a two course meal FOR FREE for people to munch on. It was first come first serve. Obviously we didn’t need a meal by we did get a fruit crumble to share between us…though I could only a mange a couple of bites!
There was lots going on, like face painting, free cake decorating for kids, vegetable stands, bread and things like that. It was great! But I couldn’t even think to have any more cake sadly…as good as it looked! In fact, on my way back to the station I couldn’t even manage a free Hotel Chocolat chocolate! Who even am I?? I was a very full and happy bunny in my train back home (and for once, the right train!).

The next morning I met up with fellow Bournemouth Marathon trainees, Mike, Matt and Joe, and we headed out for a 10 mile run. It was quite humid and warm but otherwise good weather to run in. We all agreed that it might be nice to have a day like that for the marathon next week… But who knows eh!

We kept the pace conversational and it flew by. When we finished the 10 I wanted to carry on and do two to three more miles afterwards so waved goodbye to everyone.I just like to do 13 miles the week before a marathon, it just works for me doing half the distance. I also wanted to see how my legs felt running solo after a long run. I really don’t know where I am with my pace for this marathon so it was nice to see what my legs naturally felt like doing. I don’t think I’ll be running near the 8 mins though! But I’m just going to see how I feel on the day. If anything at the beginning feels too hard, I’ll slow it down. I’m not aiming for a PB (that would be foolish considering I’m not in that sort of shape!) but equally I think I can do a bit faster than a four hour marathon. We shall see.

How was your weekend?

Have you been to Reading recently? It’s got quite a nice selection of coffee shops and restaurants.

Do you enjoy a platter at a restaurant? I quite like a meze board for the variation.

All the food and the Solent Half Marathon

Aside from all the packing madness, last weekend was really fun. Anything involving seeing good friends, eating ribs and having a solid race and long run is a big tick in my book!

So after parkrun on Saturday morning (and more packing), I met up with a good friend of mine for a catch-up and some tasty food. I told her to bring her appetite as the place we were going was not for tiny stomachs. I picked her up from the Southampton Central train station (as she was coming from Basingstoke) and we headed to Sadlers. If you’re ever in Southampton and you’re a meat-loving fan, you really must check this place out. Actually to be fair, they do a fantastic vegetarian menu as well – lots of options!I always mean to try new things but then I know how good the ribs are at Sadlers and can’t help but stick with them. They’re honestly some of the best ribs I’ve ever had. They had two options: medium (800g) or large (1.5kg). I asked the advice of the waiter (even though I knew what I’d go for regardless) and when I told him I was a “whole chicken Nando’s kinda girl” he agreed that ordering the large would be best. And I’m so glad I did (though I am slightly wondering if they were indeed 1.5kg worth of ribs…I remember last time ordering the ribs and really struggling whereas this time I was fine). The cornbread was really good for mopping up the BBQ sauce but the chips got left behind. No room at the inn!

My friend ordered the St. Elmo’s Fire, which was super spicy. She’s literally the spice queen (she’s been known to send plates back when they’ve not been spicy enough and asked for more chili!) and she said it was good.We then decided that pudding was in order. Luckily our pudding of choice was a mile’s walk away, which gave our stomach’s a bit of time to recover. Because we definitely needed to make space for a trip to Sprinkles Gelato! The last time I went to Sprinkles I’d had major food envy as I’d made a poor choice on what to have. this time I knew exactly what to get: a Sticky Situation.
This was chocolate and vanilla gelato mixed with milk and white chocolate buttons, cookie dough and melted milk and white chocolate topped with cream. Oh god it was amazing. But no I didn’t manage to finish it. It was just too much sugar. I started to feel a bit sick as I got to the bottom… big chunks of chocolate and cookie dough sadly remained uneaten (I mourn this now). But it was totally worth it. I’d always prefer being defeated by a pudding than finishing it easily and wanting more (greedy person syndrome).My friend ordered a kind of make-your-own dessert jar which included a random mix of gelato (Pina Collada, raspberry cheesecake and Ferrero Rocher! Everything she fancied basically) and a side of banana. She loved it too. And then we parted ways, full to the brim but having had a lovely afternoon. I was then fully fuelled to tackle more packing and cleaning when I got home. I didn’t need anything else to eat that day for definite!

The next morning I woke up early to head off to the Solent Half Marathon. My plan was to run three miles beforehand and then the half itself to make a total of 16 miles, which would be a good training run for the Bournemouth Marathon in a few weeks. I skipped breakfast as I was still quite full and do most of my long runs fasted anyway (well, as fasted as you can be with having eaten that much the day before) and drove to meet with four other ladies from my club to convoy together to the race. We had a nice turn out for our club and there was a very friendly atmosphere.After collecting our bibs, my friend Kate and I headed out for our pre-race run. She wanted two miles while I wanted three so we ran a mile out and back and then I ran another 0.5 mile out and back to make it up. I could already feel that it was going to be a warm one.

I’ve run the Solent Half Marathon a few years ago so vaguely remembered the course being fairly undulating. As I was just planning on running it as a training run I decided to wear my Aftershokz to listen to a podcast to keep my speed under control and my mind occupied. Basically I was treating it as a long run. It’s funny because this is exactly what I did the last time I ran it too, doing three miles extra. However the marathon I was training for (my first marathon I’d signed up to – the Portsmouth Coastal) I never actually got to as I got injured.The race is fairly low-key and the roads aren’t closed. There were a few spectators but the marshals were super friendly and happy which made up for the quieter parts. We started off and I tried not to get caught up in the beginning surge. I let my running friends zoom ahead while I found a comfortable pace and zoned out.The race goes through some lovely countryside roads and passes through the New Forest so there’s lots of greenery to help take your mind off the boring road (it’s all on road). I was glad to have my headphones, but I was paranoid that people would be judging me or that a marshal would disqualify me. The race rules said that “in ear” headphones would lead to disqualification (and this is a race that did actually disqualify people – I remember when I ran it last time I saw them listed in the results as DQ) but the Aftershokz are out of the ear headphones as they work on bone conduction – and are UK Athletics approved. But I still worried. I hate how people judge people for using headphones, like it’s not proper running or something. But hey ho.At one point I found myself overtaking a guy, only for him to then overtake me and then slow down, so then I’d overtake him again, and he’d overtake again… this happened like three times! It was a little frustrating. I wasn’t increasing my pace at all.It was a very warm race so I made sure to stop at each drinks station (there were only three as it was a smaller race) and walked with my water to ensure I drank it all rather than throwing it down myself. I took a few photos – especially when we got past the coast as it was very pretty.I decided that at mile 10 I’d switch to music and try to push the pace a bit. I was enjoying drifting in and out of the my podcast but I wanted to liven things up a bit towards the end. Unfortunately there are some nasty inclines at this point too but I luckily I had enough strength in my legs to get me through. It was really encouraging to pick people off and pass them as I sped up. It was a good way to keep myself going, “one more person” or “just that person ahead”.
It got a lot harder on the final mile, which was my fastest, but I managed to hold on until the end. What was good was that the end of the race followed my warm-up run so I knew exactly how far it was until the end so could work out what speed I could hold until the end. Very handy. I came in at exactly 1:44. I will happily take that time! We got a lovely singlet as well (female extra small woohoo!) which makes a change from a medal or a buff. The finish was great as there were people dressed as Mini Mouse and Elmo. Very fun! I made sure to get a photo of course…It’s funny because though I ate so much the day before I was quite hungry when I finished (I actually remember feeling hungry during the race as well, which never used to happen to me!). Normally after long runs I don’t fancy food but actually recently I’m ready to eat almost straight away. I remember feeling this way after the London Marathon this year too. I guess not having had dinner or breakfast wasn’t entirely wise! But at the time I wasn’t hungry.

I practically hoovered up my porridge as soon as I got back – I was famished! And lunch wasn’t too many hours after either. The calorie balance was definitely addressed; carrot cake from my dwindling freezer stash can help that!

I’m really pleased with how the race went, but it’s given me a few thoughts on what pace I should aim for the marathon, especially if the temperature is similar. Perhaps closer to the 8.30s than the 8s per mile I think!

Do you like to eat food straight after exercising?

Do you stick with safe options you know you’ll enjoy at restaurants or branch out for a change?

Do you use headphones during runs or races?

Running, family time and fro-yo

How nice was the sunshine this Bank Holiday weekend?? Normally when there’s a long weekend we get a lot of rain. I realise not everyone gets the Bank Holiday in August (sorry Scotland) but hopefully everyone had a nice weekend anyway.

I had a really good one. I didn’t go anywhere or do anything too crazy but it did feel a bit jam-packed.

On Saturday morning I was finally back to my home parkrun, Netley Abbey. I went down early as usual to help set-up and jokingly re-introduced myself to everyone as I haven’t been there in over a month! A couple of weeks before I went to Austria… and then I got injured and last week went to Lee-On-Solent parkrun, so yeah quite a while!

A few days earlier I’d been suffering with a random flu-like illness (I had stomach cramps, was hot and cold, achy and super tired). I had to skip my run on Thursday night annoyingly but this was clearly the best thing to do because by Saturday morning I was fine again (whew!). It was very warm and the sun was shining but I was looking forward to running.

Photo Credit: Glen Tyreman

I felt myself get stronger as the run continued and gave my legs a bit of a turnover on the final lap. I saw a few of my running club friends ahead and tried to catch one of them but they got away at the end. It was nice though to have a burst of speed! My knee felt fine as well which was great.

What was not great was my friend Terry, who was celebrating his birthday, grabbing me in a big bear hug and drenching me in his sweat. I was rather disgusted but let him off because he said it made his day, ha! He’s a lovely guy, but yes rather sweaty post-run. I had to take off my top and let it dry on a tree!! Thank you very much, Terry! (I had a jacket with me)Afterwards I grabbed a cold drink in the cafe with my friends and we chilled outside in the sunshine.

Later on I met with my sister, Rachel, for Nando’s and a cinema trip. She’s 2.5 years older than me and we don’t get to see each other as much we’d like as she often works weekends. It’s nice to see her one-on-one as, though we’re SO different, we just slot into place and have a good natter and a gossip. She has so much more common sense and adulting skills than I have so it’s always nice to hear her take on something or just to have a laugh and a giggle.

We enjoyed some Nando’s chicken (she’s not quite a glutinous pig I am and had a far more reasonable order of a half chicken with some sides compared to my whole chicken and salad…).Despite eating stupid amounts I really fancied some pick ‘n’ mix for the film. It’s been a while since I’ve had some. You can’t beat some super cheap sweets in my opinion. Yes they’re full of awful ingredients and so much sugar, but sometimes you just need something basic.The film we saw was Logan Lucky and it was brilliant. If you like Ocean’s 11 then you’ll love this. It was quick, quirky and hilarious. Daniel Craig is fantastic. It’s one to see twice I think.

Sunday morning I had a lovely lie-in until 8.30am before meeting my friend Mike at 9am for a long run. I’d managed to persuade Mike to go a little later as I knew I’d have a late on the night before. Yes it’d probably be a little cooler an hour before but not hugely. It’d probably been best to go at 6ish if we’d have wanted to have beaten the heat but sometimes sleep wins!

The plan was to run 12 miles together and then I’d go on and run four on my own. Mike is now tapering down for the New Forest Marathon (that we’re running together) but I’m building up again as I missed so many runs when I was injured. It’s not ideal but it is what it is!

We both sensibly took water as it was so warm outside. Mike wanted to do the first six miles around 9.20min/mile pace and then the last six 9min/miles. I was happy with whatever! I was glad we weren’t going to be running much faster than that as my fitness isn’t in it’s best and I had a long way ahead of me to run.

Luckily where we ran there was a spot to refill our water bottles up as it really was a hot one. And Mike’s route (yes I’m fully blaming Mike here) was quite undulating as well. Oof the run was not an easy one at all!We struggled a little at the end. Mike was starting to feel a bit dizzy. I was now dreading my four solo miles, wondering if I should just call it quits after 12. It was very tempting. But I decided that when we stopped I’d run up to my flat, drink some cold water and grab my phone and headphones so I could keep motivated by listening to a podcast.

When we stopped Mike looked a bit concerned about how the run had gone. But I tried to convince him that it was ridiculously hot and he’d run TWENTY MILES the week before. Marathon training really does play with your head. When you’ve had good solid training, like Mike has over the past few months, it will catch up with you when you start to taper down. You just have to remember you’ll feel a bit more fresh come marathon day and everything you’ve done before will come into play on the day.My four miles went well. I suddenly had a second wind and was able to zone out to my podcast and focus on just getting the last bit done. I told myself just do three but went a route that meant I had to do four (oh the games we play to get through tough runs). I felt really good when I finished. Gave me a bit of confidence for the marathon!

I quickly got showered and sorted (how I DETEST blowdrying my hair when I’m still super hot from a run) and then grabbed some porridge to eat while my mum drove us to Southampton West Quay for a bit of retail therapy. I must admit, I felt shattered after sitting down! You forget how hard long runs are when you haven’t done one in a while. This is why it’s so important for me to do a couple before the big day.

We had a lovely day shopping (though a big disappointment when we found that the West Quay Starbucks had disappeared!). I got some nice things from H&M, my favourite clothes shop, and we had a cheeky frozen yogurt to finish the day. By this point I really was drained and had a terrible headache. I was staying at my parent’s house that evening (I haven’t moved in yet) and couldn’t seem to work out if I needed a nap, food or water. I was probably quite dehydrated. I camped out on my parent’s outside furniture with a Starbucks I’d bought on the way over, but also made sure to drink water as well.I text Mike and he said he had a bad headache too. I reckon we both caught a bit of sunstroke, being out in the sun for 2.5 hours. I’d never sunbathe for that long! Even after taking some headache tablets the headache still lingered. The next morning it had thankfully disappeared but god my legs ached. I am definitely not in peak marathon running shape!

That morning I headed to the gym for a bit of strength work and then my dad and me walked to the butchers to get some BBQ meat. We thought it’d be about a mile and a bit but it turned out to be almost 3 miles! And it was really warm. But it was a nice walk, and it helped shake my legs out a bit.

So I finished Monday up with a lovely family BBQ and feeling a little more confident for the marathon…in two weeks!

What did you get up to over the weekend?

Do you ever get headaches after a long run?

What’s your favourite clothes shop?

Vegan delights, running late and too much cake

This weekend was both super busy and super chilled. A good mixture I think!

On Friday night I stayed at my parent’s house as I’d planned on running to Lee-On-Solent parkrun the next day in order to kill two birds with one stone. I haven’t done parkrun since before Austria because of my injury, but I wanted to get back to it. Equally I wanted a long run and as I’ve been playing it super safe only running three times so this meant combining the two on Saturday as I’d already run Tuesday and Thursday. Lee-On-Solent parkrun isn’t very far from my parents so was a safe distance to add on before the 5k.

I was feeling quite tired so decided that I wouldn’t set my alarm too early. 7.30am seemed about right. As long as I was running no later than 8.10am that would give me a good amount of time to run 5 miles and have a bit of a buffer just before parkrun. For reasons beyond comprehension, when I’d planned my run I hadn’t really spotted that it was longer than 5 miles to get to the actual starting area of parkrun. And, as always, I wasted a bit of time in the morning faffing around… meaning by 8.15am I was still trying to locate satellites and not having much luck.

But, ever the positive and optimistic, I set off without a care in the world at 8.20am. The run felt good and I zoned out listening to a podcast as I plodded along. Funnily enough one of my non-running friends said they saw me running and got confused why I was running in the opposite direction to the Lee parkrun. They didn’t understand why I didn’t just run directly there. I had to explain about trying to get the extra miles. They didn’t quite get it. Non-runners, eh 😉

As I was running a route I often do when I run a long run from my parent’s house I know how many miles roughly there was to go until I got towards the Lee-On-Solent area. I realised I’d made a mistake somewhere in my planning. It was now closing in on 8.45am and I still had about three miles to go. I sped up a bit. As I was running along the coast I could see in the distance where the parkrun would begin. I was still so far away!As it got to 9am I was about 0.5 miles away and started passing some of the marshals. As I legged it past I shouted “Don’t think I’m going to make it!” and they laughed and said I better hurry up. I was somewhat banking on there being lots of messages at the start to delay it a bit but it seemed unlikely to be delayed so much after 9am. When I got to the start area of course they had already gone as it was now almost 9.10am. I ran past my friend Rebecca, who was marshalling and celebrating reaching 100 times volunteering (!), and she laughed at my lateness. I debated not doing it and just supporting and then getting my extra miles by running home (which would be about three miles) but I could see the runners ahead and decided just to try and catch up as much as I could and have a slower time.By this point I’d been running a lot faster than I intended so attempted to slow down a bit. I was now at parkrun so could chill. It was a shame to be late because my friend Ben was going to run with me at parkrun. I saw him fly past me in the other direction as he’d reached the turnaround point ages ago. I shouted I was late and he laughed at me (a theme for this run). Though it was quite a satisfying run because I could pick so many people off and feel like I was really gaining on the field. I wondered idly how many miles it would take to catch up with people running similar speeds to me… more than parkrun I thought. In fact the maths of it confused me a little – could I ever catch up to people running at my speed? No, I’d need to run faster wouldn’t I? The random thoughts of a runner…Anyway, as Ben had finished a lot before me he came back for me and ran the last 0.5 mile with me. I was pretty puffed by this point as I was still running faster than planned. I was still feeling a bit stressed about the whole thing! It was nice though to feel a bit of speed in my legs and I tried not to dwell on how much I’d lost since getting injured. Such is life! I finished, on my watch, 23:26 which isn’t too shabby at all given the time off I’ve had (my actual time was 30:18 tho). And a total of 9.6 miles. I was tempted to run it up to 10 but by that point I was done. I chatted with Ben (he’s working his way up to 50 marathons!) and Rebecca. She’s such a lovely, lovely person and it’s such an incredible achievement to have volunteered so many times.She seemed to be under the impression that it might seem a bit “sad” but I fully disagreed with her. It’s a fantastic thing to do and she should be really proud of herself. Volunteering is so important in the parkrun world (and life in general). You could equally call runners “sad” for running so many of them too. So enough of that nonsense Rebecca!

As I headed off I noticed a vegan burger van and had to get a photo as it looked very quirky and I’d never seen one before – also selling churros randomly. I tried to discreetly take a photo but one of the vegan runners who was stood next to it spotted me and did a great pose. It was very amusing!My parents helpfully picked me up and then I had to race to get ready as I was meeting Andy for lunch and time was a’ticking! He picked me up with his parent’s adorable Cavalier, Tilly (the same black and white colouring as my parent’s dog Dylan). Tilly is very sweet and well behaved. And luckily the place we were going for food allowed dogs inside. To balance out our recent burger exploits, we decided to go to Off Beet in Wickham, which is a fully vegan cafe/restaurant. And honestly if you’re in the area and like good food – even if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan – you must go there. The food is INCREDIBLE. It’s so reasonably priced (£9-12 for a main meal), sustainably conscious and amazingly inventive with their ever-changing menu. I’ve been there before with the lovely April so I knew I was in for a treat.

Tilly chilled out (though was ever aware of any food that would come her way by ‘accident’ under the table) as we debated back and forth of what to get… it all sounded so good! In the end Andy went for tacos (with harissa charred cauliflower and blackbeans on handmade gluten-free tacos).And I went for the Thai Green curry and tofu-fried rice. We also got some polenta chips…just because!It was so tasty. Now though I know I always seem to be eating ridiculously amounts of meat, I’m a food lover in general and can appreciate good food, regardless of whether it’s vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free or whatever. If it tastes good, I’ll eat it. I’m always happy to try different foods and give things a go. Yes I love meat but I’m happy to not eat it if the dish is good enough without. And it was DELICIOUS. And very filling. Well, not too filling… there was still room for pudding.

There are so many different kinds of vegan cakes we were really spoilt for choice. When Andy went to the till to order I’d told him if the one slice of brownie cheesecake was still there I would have that otherwise a peanut butter-based cheesecake. Well, he came back with three options! Definitely the best decision right there.

We shared (yes I know, I SHARED. Can you even imagine?) the three pieces. They weren’t overwhelming sweet like regular cake but they were very tasty (no refined sugars and all that jazz). They had interesting textures from the crushed nuts and creamy bits. I can’t really tell you what we had… one was probably chocolate chip banana bread, one was Nutella based and the cheesecake looking one was the peanut butter. My favourite was last one I think. But it was a tough call!

After filling our boots, we headed out for a walk down the bridal path of Wickham. It was a lovely day and a lovely walk. Tilly was pooped by the end!

That evening I had my friend’s 30th birthday party BBQ to go to (well, my married couple friends were both celebrating their 30th if that makes sense). By this point enough time had passed and I was hungry again. There was a fantastic spread of food and I loaded up a plate of vol au vents, pulled pork (winner right there), sausages and salad. Later I also had a burger and more pork. I guess I kind of undid all the good vegan work I did earlier I’m afraid!

Then trifle and chocolate cheesecake appeared… Well the BBQ went on well into the evening so a lot of this food was spread over a good amount of time. And of course I had to have some of this AMAZING unicorn cake. Some of it was coffee-flavoured (not my favourite admittedly) and rainbow sprinkles ‘flavour’. It was incredible. I felt well and truly pudding’ed out by this point!The BBQ was such good fun with my friends. Lots of games, banter and chilling out. A perfect end to a great Saturday.

Sunday saw a gym visit, chores and finally some relaxing! Whew.

How was your weekend?

If you’re not a vegan, would you ever eat at a vegan restaurant?

Have you ever been late to a parkrun?

My favourite B’s – brownie and BBQ in Bristol

This weekend was my annual uni friends BBQ. We’ve been doing this for 11 years now, which just blows my mind.

It hasn’t always been a BBQ (one time we did a picnic in a park, though I didn’t listen properly and still brought raw food much to everyone’s amusement. Another Anna Stupid Moment), but invariable it is. The weather is usually always good, but annoyingly this year it rained. Ah well, can’t win ’em all.

I drove to Bristol on the Friday evening. It also happened to be the worst time to drive anywhere because there were so many family’s who’s kids had just finished for the year and were off on holiday. So my hour 40 minutes drive turned into 2.5 hours. Joy!

The evening was lovely. We had burritos (steak and chicken). Then followed by our amazing brownie.We’ve been making this brownie since our university days. It’s basically our way of throwing out the rule book and eating pudding exactly how we want (i.e. being a bit piggy and greedy). Straight out of the oven, with a spoon. I blogged the recipe before if you’re interested… this time we added lots of white chocolate and a KitKat Chunky. The KitKat didn’t really work, but it was still AMAZING.

I promptly went into a food coma. We then watched Naked Attraction (if you’ve never seen this programme it’s hilarious but also unbelievably cringey; people choosing dates based entirely on their naked bodies). There was actually a really sweet couple who got together and are still together post-show. Normally they never really work out but this was really cute how well they got on and liked each other. Ah romance 😉 It was a full-on rock and roll evening clearly!

Normally Saturday morning Kate, Jamie and I would go to one of the Bristolian parkruns but as I’m still  injured and Kate and Jay haven’t been running much we decided to have a lie-in instead. I did attempt a little run to see how the knee felt but it still pulled so I turned back after half a mile. Frustrating. Instead I walked to Starbucks with one of the others, Charlotte, and we enjoyed the nice weather (which was soon to turn) and a good old natter.

Then our other friend’s arrived with their newborn baby and the BBQ could commence! It was WEIRD seeing my friend with a baby. She’s the first in the group to have had one and it was just bizarre. She’s a proper grown-up now! The baby, Eloise, was very cute (that’s all you’ll get from me on babies). It didn’t change the dynamic of the group at all, which was nice. Eloise just slotted it like the new addition she is. Though babies do, in general, terrify me.I just don’t know what to do with them or how to speak to them… I held her once and then quickly gave her back. Whew. We survived. It was great hearing all the gory details of the birth though. You do need a close friend to tell you the truth about these things I think. Like I said, terrifying.

Then Jamie got ready with the BBQ. Check out the bag of meat!So. Much. Food. This is why I love going to Bristol. They feed me so well 😉There was a selection of chicken thighs and drumsticks, peppered steaks, lamb ribs, pork ribs, pork belly, sausages and burgers. Pretty damn good!Though the weather wasn’t great it was still a fun BBQ. We ate inside around the table which was nice, so we could all easily chat. And they no longer laugh at me when I take photos of food 😉

Obviously I ate too much, but what’s new? We followed the BBQ with Victoria sponge and salted caramel cake (it was recently Shell and Charlotte’s birthday – yes I had a slice of both…and maybe another later) and then BBQ bananas with chocolate sauce. YES.I’m not a huge banana fan but this was really tasty. The banana had gone all gooey and sticky and the chocolate sauce melted into it. SO good. Just slice a line into a banana, roll it up with foil and pop it onto the coals for 15 minutes).

I went home later that day very happy. I mean, ridiculously full but very happy.

The next morning…ah how I’d loved to have joined my friend Mike in his 20 mile run (I’m trying not to panic, trying not to panic) and instead went to the gym where I did 65 minutes on the cross-trainer at a quick clip. I was a sweaty mess by the end and somewhat satisfied with my workout. But not as happy as I’d have been having just done 20 miles! But hey ho, it is what it is.

I’ve found the perfect way to keep entertained on the elliptical machine; watching YouTube and films. I watched To The Bone on Netflix which was interesting. I’d heard about this through the Blogosphere and also on a film podcast. It’s about eating disorders, which isn’t an entirely fun subject but it was actually really good in a weird way. An interesting take on the subject and I thought Keanu Reeves in it was really good. The main female did annoy me a bit but I don’t think she was meant to be entirely likeable. I thought it addressed the issues well but it’d be interesting hearing from someone with more experience on the matter.

Anyway, it’d be nice to run again. My knee does seem much better so it’s frustrating that when it comes to running this isn’t translated. It feels fine in every other aspect but running. So who knows. Cross training is the way forward right now!

How was your weekend?

Do you have any annual traditions with your friends?

Have you watched To The Bone?