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?

Rough Runner 10k

Rough Runner 10k was my fourth obstacle race. I guess you can say I’m a fan!

I probably would never do an obstacle race on my own. It’s not really a solo event in my opinion. It’s a relaxed and fun event and it’s about helping your team mates and giving out a deal of banter as you go. You wait for each other, you don’t run off and you encourage where you can but are equally willing to laugh at your team mates and yourself, of course. It’s not that serious.

But there’s a genuine level of fear I have of these races that’s incomparable to normal running events. I’m not a huge fan of getting wet (and with that, getting cold). So any obstacle that involves avoiding the water by its successful completion makes me really keen to not fail. That said, it’s not the end of the world to get wet. I say I’m scared but in reality, when it happens (which it always does), it’s always fairly fun, albeit a shock to the system.So Rough Runner races are done all over the UK and this was the first one in Bristol. And happily just a 10 minute drive down the road from my friend’s house. We were able to have a lovely lie-in and a relaxed breakfast before leaving. We arrived an hour before our wave and were able to check out the race village.We signed our life away (aka the waiver) and then picked up our bibs. By the way, the bibs were such a great idea. Instead of using pins, it just stuck straight onto your shirt. This is handy for an obstacle race because you’re sometimes dragging yourself through things or lying on the ground so pins can hurt or tear the bib and/or your t-shirt. My bib stayed on the entire time. Other events could learn from this!

The bag drop was easy peasy as well. It was all very smoothly run. No issues (FYI car parking was £5 – not too expensive but something to be aware of). The portable toilets had no queues either. The race gods were shining down on us. It’s also a very easy course to spectate. We saw many spectators walking around, following the route and taking photos of loved ones. At the race village there was an inflatable thing for kids to play on as well.The travelator (a main highlight of the Rough Runner event) was also front and centre in the race village and spectators could sit on chairs and watch the poor souls trying to do it – right at the end, the final obstacle.There were different speeds of how fast they were going (one on the far left actually went forward so you could stand on it and it would take you up…). Think gladiators!Our wave was the first one so we headed over to the warm-up area ready to go and, with the others in our wave, were led into the huge inflatable dome. We’d been wondering what on Earth was inside it and whether it was our first obstacle but actually it was far less exciting. It was the health and safety video…

The video was actually really well done. It was all cartoon and very funny. It was still informative and all that jazz but it was done in an engaging way that made people actually watch it. Very clever of them! Then we were released out of the dome (the smell of which reminded me so much of kid’s parties and the bouncy castles) and did a random warm-up (lots of running about and burpees…).

Then we were off. Kate, Jay and I were really lucky to be right at the front. This was just luck of the draw where we were stood by the end of the warm-up but this put us in a fantastic position for the entire race. We were ahead of all the big teams and this meant that for each obstacle we barely had to wait for anyone (which is such an issue with these races).

Most of the running was around farm fields and almost entirely flat, which was a nice change. But it did mean running on slightly uneven grass and through hay fields which just ruined me with my hay fever. It was also quite overcast but still very warm. Sadly this meant I wasn’t intelligent enough to consider still applying sun tan lotion…

Anyway pretty much every single obstacle we reached we could take our time assessing it and then doing it unhurriedly with no queue behind us. It was almost like we were the only ones doing it. We could chat to the marshals and ask their advice how best to do it or more information on it. It was amazing!

I don’t necessarily mind waiting for an obstacle in these kind of races but it does make it easier, and less rushed, if there isn’t a queue. Tough Mudder felt quite frantic and crowded at times with the sheer number of people. This was positively relaxed!

There were many obstacles, such as the Swept Off Your Feet one, where you had to get across an inflatable thing and avoid falling in the water to get to the other side.I love these photos because you can see Jamie laughing at me behind. This was one I didn’t last long on. I got knocked off the toad-stall thing by the big inflatable arm that was swinging around. It wasn’t too bad getting wet as it was such a warm day. Jay properly bossed this though and got a huge cheer from the nearby watching crowd (it was very close to the race village).He was far more tactical using speed rather than my timid stop and start approach. Though he did overcook it and end up flying off the end. He always manages to do something crazy in these races 😉

There was another obstacle where you had to run through a load of marshals dressed up as pigeons holding inflatable barriers to hit you and try and stop you from getting passed (they were pigeons because it was called “Nelson’s Column”. As we ran towards this obstacle we were the only ones around and the marshal dressed as Nelson (high on top of a column) started shouting to the pigeons with his megaphone to “get ready for war” as we approached. It was hilarious. but also very tough! They grabbed your feet and walloped you with these inflatable things, which though didn’t hurt did make getting passed tough.

I managed to do quite well on most of the obstacles and only got wet on the first one above. The fear of falling into the water was real. Though it wasn’t cold I do hate getting wet.Not every obstacle involved water though. There was a huge pen full of huge inflatable balls you had to get through (harder than you think) and things to climb up and over. Basically it was bloody good fun.

The travelator at the end though was amazing. Again we didn’t have to wait which was such a bonus. I decided to try the fastest one and see how it went (you could try each one, but only once).I almost didn’t make it (it’s like a treadmill but so much harder). I really had to dig deep at the end and I wasn’t too proud to accept the helping hand of a marshal to pull me up the last step. Jamie managed the first time as well, though Kate needed another try. Kate is hilarious. She will give everything a go but invariably does end up falling into the water…much to Jay’s and my amusement. 100% effort though – you gotta give these things a go. There was definitely one obstacle I almost didn’t do (involved being upside down holding a horizontal ladder with your arms and legs and shimmying across some water) but Jay and Kate encouraged me along and surprisingly I managed to do it. Doing these things with friends is the number one requirement.We finished feeling jubilant and on top of the world. Such a good race. Definitely our favourite so far. I did actually prefer it to Tough Mudder as it was far less busy and more fun. It had a game show feel whereas Tough Mudder has a “survive or die” feel. Don’t get me wrong, Tough Mudder is amazing and epic, but this was a lot more fun in terms of having a laugh with your friends.I was a bit sad we didn’t get a t-shirt but the photos were free. Obstacle races are more expensive than other races but I do think the price is justified. It involves setting up huge obstacles and having more marshals and health and safety, so you can kind of understand. I thoroughly enjoyed this race and would recommend it to anyone.

Have you ever done a Rough Runner?

Did you ever watch gladiators? I have a new found respect for them. They make it look SO easy.

Do you ever run races with friends as a group?

Double BBQ and the first proper long run

This weekend was another busy one. On Friday evening I headed to Bristol to stay over my friend’s house. I was quite stressed out and in a bad mood as I left but after chilling out to some music I got back into a happy place and was ready for a weekend of fun.

I’m always fed so well at Kate and Jamie’s. I never stress out that I’ll be hungry or I won’t like what the make as they know me quite well 😉 The next morning I had a lazy lie-in until 8.30am and then we got ready for yet another obstacle race, the Rough Runner 10k. I love doing these kinds of race with Kate and Jamie because they’re such good fun.The races are very relaxed and we go into them just looking to enjoy ourselves. We run as a group and tackle each obstacle together, motivating each other and of course laughing when someone face plants or falls off an obstacle. It’s really not that serious and doing races like this is a nice change and something that keeps me from getting fed up of road race after road race. I love my “normal” races but a change is always needed once in a while!

I’ll recap that in a separate post as it deserves it 🙂 After the race Jay manned the BBQ while Kate and I popped to the supermarket to grab some salad bits and pudding. Normally we’d go out for a meal after a race but as it was such a nice day (oof I got sunburnt during the race), a BBQ seemed like a far better plan. Jay is like the BBQ master. They always host an annual BBQ every year (coming up in July, whoop whoop!) which I always look forward to so I was really chuffed to have an early taster session.There were sausages, burgers, chicken pieces, ribs, pork belly and lamb pieces. I was in heaven! They really do do a great spread.By the time we sat down we were all ravenous, having had breakfast over five hours ago! I ate a bit (*cough* a lot) of everything and felt well and truly refuelled and restored. But obviously a bit of pudding was required too to fully finish the meal off nicely.Ooof such a good pudding. A salted caramel cookie topped with brownie and salted caramel ice cream. It was delicious. And so I drove home in a very content state of satisfaction. As always, a fun time had been had in Bristol!

I’d originally planned on getting up super early Sunday to get my long run in before it got too hot but actually the temperature was a lot cooler and it looked to continue that way the next day. So I treated myself to another lie in (8.15am) and headed off for my long run at 9am. I always walk Alfie beforehand to help wake me up and warm my legs up. I never usually have breakfast before either. I just make sure I’ve eaten enough the day before (see above…) and I like to run fasted as when I race I do use fuel so the boost is so much more pronounced on race day. This might be rubbish but psychologically it works for me.

I started off the run actually feeling pretty pants. I felt tired, my legs felt heavy and I was fairly demotivated. I was doing a usual long run route around the seafront area of Hill Head and Lee-On-Solent and I was genuinely dreading how far I had to go. Being so familiar with the route made me just dread it even more.

But I was listening to a really interesting TED Radio Hour (a podcast which looks at a few different of the TED Talks with an overriding theme). The one I was listening to was about robots and how that might affect the future of jobs and the economy. So it kept me amused and the miles ticked by a bit easier. As always, after the initial few miles I felt better. It wasn’t as hot but it was very windy but the wind was mostly coming across me so wasn’t too bad and kept me cool.

I carried some water with me and filled up at my usual dodgy tap on the seafront promenade (it looks suspect but doesn’t have a “no drinking water” sign… I’ve drunk from it several times and never had an issue but I always refer to it as a dodgy tap as I’m not entirely sure) which is at about half-way.I felt good after finishing the run but very tired. It’s the longest run I’ve done in a while and I think it’s on of those “ahh this feels like marathon training” runs. Glad to have ticked it off!

And then I had another BBQ with my family. My sister and her fiance came over so it was nice to them as well. My sister was lamenting that she’s put on weight. She’s the person who has never exercised, smoked and always eaten fairly badly (a diet of pizza and cereal would be an accurate description) but never had weight issues. She’s always been quite slim (I think my sister and me are quite lucky in that respect. I know I exercise a lot but I’ve never had an issue with weight even when I didn’t exercise and ate terribly at school). But recently the medication she’s been on has caused her to gain a bit of weight and she’s facing a situation she’s never had before (bar when she was pregnant). I tried to give her some advice but seen as how she hates exercise and, in her words, “likes cheese a lot” it might be tricky! It’ll be interesting to see her change her eating habits… 😉 (I’m allowed to say this as she’s my older sister!)

The food and family time was great. But I’m shattered now!

How did you spend the weekend?

Do your friends ever cook you dinner?

Do you carry water on long runs?

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.

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?