Reading Half training day and lots of cake

This weekend was quite busy with me being in both Reading and then Brighton. I was in Reading for the Reading Half Marathon Training Session.

I’ve never done an event like this so I was quite excited about what it would entail, even if it did mean missing my usual parkrun ūüėČ It was nice to mix things up a bit. On Saturday morning I had a quick breakfast and got myself going at 8.30am. Surprisingly for me I arrived bang on time¬† for 9.30am – in fact, earlier than other people! Normally I’m late!IMG_2597I finally got to meet the lovely Tess (who writes the great blog The Fitbits) who I know through social media. She’s just as lovely in person as she is online – and, I hope she doesn’t mind me saying this, she is TINY but full of energy!

The session involved lots of different bits. We got to meet the Reading Half Marathon Run Director, Judith Manson, who was lovely and friendly and got us all excited about the upcoming event (18th March – there are still places available FYI, as well as a competition to win a place HERE).

Then we had a workout with the Townsend Twins, Francesca and Chloe, who will be doing the warm-up before the half marathon on the day. IMG_2568They took us through a solid body-weight workout involving squats, single leg deadlifts and lunges etc. followed by a core-focused workout. They gave us options to make it easier or harder which was nice as there was a variety of skill level within the room. They had a great energy and kept us going.D7B7CB84-E4D8-4528-92E8-FCAB2829CE66Then Ali Galbraith took us through a discussion on pacing.IMG_2574He gave us some good tips on how to pace our ideal race. Some of his points included:

  • Having a good knowledge of the course so you would know when the tricky sections were like any hills so you wouldn’t panic when your pace decreased and where you could pick it up later.
  • Not going off too fast at the start (such an underrated tip – this is my biggest tip to anyone when doing a half or a full marathon. It is SO easy to get over-excited at the beginning and then burn out).
  • Practising your goal pace during your training.

And other top tips. Most of it was familiar to me but the tip that stood out was having a good knowledge of the course.D0B739E2-1DE7-4711-A245-3FE21DF0E41CFor some strange reason I don’t like to look at course maps too much because it’s almost like I don’t want to ruing the surprise for myself‚Ķ which is ridiculous. Too often I have very little awareness of what’s coming up in the race. So I took this point away with me to change.IMG_2606Then we headed out for a 5k run. What I really liked about this (and the workout before) was that the warm-ups weren’t the old school static stretches. It was all dynamic movements to get the muscles warmed up, things like leg swings, squats and lunges. Far, far better! There’s no point stretching cold muscles.IMG_2593The run itself was good. We split off into groups due to everyone differing in paces. The group I was in had a pace of 8.30-9 minutes per mile which was led by Ali. The run was around the local area and took in the first mile of the Reading Half Marathon, so we could get a feel of what race day would be like (though I have run Reading twice before, but not the new course).IMG_2596Then we headed around the Madejski Stadium before heading back. It was a lovely crisp cold morning which we all agreed would be perfect weather for the race day. My calf felt a little uncomfortable but nothing major.Reading runThen we all met up back at the conference centre the event was held in and had our final session which was with Jim from the Berkshire Physio. They would be at the Half Marathon too – so if you need any advice or post-race massage, they’re your guys!IMG_2599Jim was super knowledgeable and pretty much everything he said he backed up with research. He talked about RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) as a treatment for an injury and also gave us some great stretches and strength exercises to keep us injury-free. One of the best exercises he gave us was called the “slump” and involved “neural flossing” of the Sciatic nerve. Instead of stretching your hamstrings with the standard static stretch, he recommended this exercise. Basically you sit on a table and slump your back to relax your spin with your chin to your chest, then you straight one leg and then bring it back down again. You continue to do this, and should feel things loosen from your leg to your back if you’re really tight. Apparently this is “flossing” your Sciatic nerve and helping to reduce tension and tightness. Obviously my explanation is a bit pants, so I recommend you google it if you’re interestedIMG_2570The event was well run and a good session. It was nice to meet fellow runners and to chat about training and things like that. I met the lovely Tamsyn from the blog¬†Fat Girl to Ironman and Katie and Kate from the blog¬†These Girls Do. So a fantastic bunch! I’m really looking forward to the Reading Half now ūüôā

Then I hopped back in the car around 1.30pm and headed to Brighton. I hadn’t really planned lunch and didn’t really want to stop for anything proper as I just wanted to get there so I pushed on through. I did however eat four apples to keep me going. I’m not AnnaTheApple for no reason ūüėČ

I got to Brighton and met up with my lovely friend, Charlotte. I was staying over for the night ready for a baby shower celebration the next day with my uni friends. I managed to persuade her into ordering an early dinner from Deliveroo as I was past the point of hunger and dangerously close to hanger. We ordered from a Turkish place called Almoosh Snack which we did the last time I stayed. I went for the mixed grill (which was HUGE but absolutely perfect for my hunger levels) and Charlotte ordered a large halloumi wrap and tabbouleh salad.IMG_2602My mixed grill was as I remembered it (lots of chicken wings, lamb mince koftas etc. on a bed of rice) but Charlotte’s was literally just slices of fried halloumi and her salad. It was definitely not a large wrap – and certainly missing the garlic sauce and pickles described on the menu! I rang up to complain and the man did apologise and said Deliveroo must have given us the starter version. He didn’t really offer a solution though‚Ķ I’m still going to look into this further as it was a disappointing. Charlotte had to add a bagel to make it into an actual meal. Hmmm. Despite this, we had a lovely evening watching Hidden Figures (so good) and lots of First Dates (such addictive trashy TV).IMG_2609The next day I had a fabulous lie-in and then headed out into the bitter cold for a 4 mile run. I had intended on going a bit further (maybe 6 miles) but the calf was just not happy. I’d warmed it up and done some exercises before going out but it was no Bueno. It just felt so uncomfortable every time my foot hit the ground.¬†IMG_2608The run location was lovely – the weather cold and windy but bright and the promenade was just full of fellow runners and a beautiful view of the sea. But I headed back and called it a day. 4 milesAfterwards there was a dull but non-specific ache in the calf. Hummm. Yeah I probably shouldn’t have run after running the day before. I never learn.

Our other friends soon arrived and we all headed to Metrodeco, a very quirky and friendly caf√© in Brighton, for afternoon tea. We didn’t do any crazy crazy baby shower games but we did have a fun game where we couldn’t say “baby” and had pins that we’d try to win off of people when we noticed someone saying it. Very good fun! And probably safe to say I lost‚ĶIMG_2623The afternoon tea was amazing. There were open sandwiches of ham, salmon, creme cheese and brie. A large scotch egg sliced up, two mini fruit scones, a chocolate brownie, a mini red velvet cupcake and a selection of fruit tarts.IMG_2625We also had unlimited tea from a very large selection. I chose the Puer Tea, simply because I’d heard Victoria Beckham drank it because it was healthy (haha I’m ridiculous I know) but actually it was delicious and complimented all the sweet foods perfectly. It was like a refreshing and gentle black tea. We could change our teas whenever we fancied but I stuck with that one.IMG_2626The whole afternoon tea was so good! We could ask for more creme (clotted of course) and jam and the service was just super friendly and helpful. And, as usual, I played the human dustbin and helped where people needed it ūüėČ It’s become worryingly easy how my stomach can put this stuff away!

Then we played some more games (quizzes, no horrible baby shower games involving nappies!), the mother-to-be opened presents and then we headed off home. A lovely weekend with lovely people ūüôā

Have you ever tried Puer tea?

Do you enjoy the games usually played at baby showers?

Are you running any half marathons this year?

Lee-On-Solent parkrun and a kebab fuelled long run

This weekend I was still at my parent’s house. I thought I’d hate this week of living at my parent’s but actually, aside from not being able to go to the gym in the morning and the 30 minutes extra on my commute (1.5 hours to work!) it’s actually been really nice.

I can’t exactly put my finger on why. Perhaps it’s the ease of walking Alfie (just walk out the front door rather than go up and down two flights of stairs), the larger space and more rooms, the garden and I suppose the general familiarity and comforts of my childhood home.

That said,¬†I¬†am looking forward to going back to my flat though. There is something so lovely about having your own space and independence. And a shorter commute…As my parent’s live in Stubbington the closest parkrun is Lee-On-Solent so I decided to go there on Saturday as a bit of a change. It was their 100th parkrun birthday as well so it seemed quite fitting. A bit of a lie-in as well was nice as it meant I didn’t need to leave as early as it’s so close.I decided to park 1.5 miles away so I could run there as a bit of a warm-up to wake the legs up. Clearly LoS parkrun is a popular one! The start area¬†got very busy as 9am drew closer. Gosport Road Runners had “taken over” for the week so there were lots of yellow shirts all over the place. There was also a pacing event. A friend I knew through social media, Ben, was running 21 minutes and had suggested I run with him as I wanted to break it again this week, like I had last week.

I’m in the red t-shirt

I wasn’t entirely sure whether sticking with a pacer was a good idea as I like to run at my own pace. I tend to start slower and get faster and I wasn’t sure I wanted to give over my pacing control to someone else, as nice as Ben is!

I lined up near him anyway, fairly near the front as it gets ridiculously busy at the start and as I was aiming for a particular time I wanted to give myself the best opportunity. It worked out well as, though it was busy, I was able to have no issues at the start with dodging round people or being hemmed in.

I lost Ben immediately. He started so quickly. In my opinion, far too quickly! I was looking at my watch and it was between 6.40-45min/miles so I can’t imagine how fast he was running to suddenly be quite a distance ahead. I was glad I hadn’t stuck with him. I’m not even sure I could have anyway. (I spoke to him afterwards and he says he always tries to start quickly…).

So I kept to myself and focused on keeping my legs going. I felt strong but it was tough. This was proper full effort being put it. The wind was somewhat favourable on the first mile, but as we turned around it was slightly against us so this added to the pain.¬†Somehow I was able to gain a little bit more speed as the parkrun continued and when we made the other turnaround to head back to the finish I was able to push on, now with the physically and psychological help of the wind. There’s one ramp you have to run up and down and as you come down the other side you can see the finish ahead. I looked at my watch and saw 20:30. I knew I’d never get to the finish under 21 minutes. It was just too far. But I kept up the pace and sprinted to the end. My time was 21:15 and I’m happy with that. I couldn’t have pushed any harder.Though it wasn’t a sub-21, I do think I ran faster than last week at Netley. When I compare my splits I run slightly faster each mile. As with all parkruns this could be due to the courses being slightly different lengths. Alternatively it could be GPS error on either one so who really knows! Either way I’m more than happy with my fairly consistent running right now.After finishing and chatting with some people I knew (and a lovely and speedy blog reader – hello Graham!), I headed to the tail runner to walk with my friend, Rebecca, who was doing her first ever parkrun. Rebecca actually has volunteered like a zillion times but only recently decided to give doing one a try. She did amazingly! She was chatting away as she was walking and looked quite comfortable. I told her it would only get harder now as the next time she did one she’d need to beat this time ūüėČ Huge well done to her, she’s a star and a lovely, lovely person.

Then we surveyed the cake selection… of which was SO impressive.There were so many different kinds of cakes, from cup cakes, to brownies, to lemon sponges, Victoria sponges… And the amazing parkrun cake!As much as I wanted to fill my boots with ALL THE CAKE, I decided to play it sensible and not have anything as I still needed to run 1.5 miles back to the car. I know, I know, who even am I!?The run back felt harder than the run there, for obvious reasons, but it was nice to shake my legs out a bit. As I got closer to the car rain started to drip down and I literally just made it into the car before a downpour began!

After a day of odd jobs¬†and a lovely coffee catch-up with a friend, I headed to my friend’s house for a girl’s evening. I had my second take-away of the weekend…! I hadn’t planned on two take-aways but I’d promised myself an Indian for Friday night and the girl’s night with a cheeky take-away was only planned at the last minute. So I switched it up and had a kebab. I haven’t had a kebab in YEARS.And as takeaways go, it wasn’t the worst thing I could have had. Pizzas and fish and chips tend to rank quite badly in terms of “overall unhealthiness” due to their carb and fat content, not to mention salt. Fair enough the quantity of kebab I had was not what you’d class as a healthy meal (go big or go home…always my mantra unfortunately) but if I’d have gone for a slightly smaller one, my chicken shish and kofta kebab with a pitta bread and salad was actually a fairly OK meal in the great take-away universe. Though it was still fairly salty and the meat quality probably wasn’t that great. It tasted insanely good though.

But anyway, we enjoyed a nice evening in with food, chatting and a good film. It was a late night but I decided to treat myself to a lie-in the next morning. I actually slept until 9.30am! (Though I did have to get up at 5am to let the dogs out…).

I woke up not feeling like my long run at all but decided to just head out for six miles and see how I felt. Ideally I wanted 10-12 but I felt so lethargic and unmotivated that I didn’t think that would happen.

Heading out after 10am on a very sunny and warm day wasn’t entirely wise, but I tucked a ¬£2 coin in my sports bra just in case I needed water. I listened to a new favourite podcast (My Dad Wrote A Porno… if you haven’t heard it, you really must. It’s literally laugh out loud funny). The first few miles were about as horrific as I’d envisaged. I had heavy legs, I felt overly hot and I just wanted to be at home. But as I hit the fourth mile I started to get into it. I lost myself in the podcast and found the miles flew by. I did need to stop at a petrol station for water but otherwise I felt pretty strong. I finished with 11 miles and feeling good. Mind games really do work ūüėČStrava tells me I last ran this route in January 2016 and depressingly I ran it a lot quicker (7:51min/mile average compared to my average of 8:17min/mile). But it is what it is. Progress to be made! I felt good at the end and that’s what counts in my eyes. Afterwards I attempted a selfie in the garden, which kind of didn’t work as the dogs wanted to get involved ūüėČIt did make me laugh though!

Hope you had a nice weekend too ūüôā

What did you get up to?

What’s your take-away of choice?

How do you get yourself motivated for a long run?

My little holiday in Wales

I’m back from North Wales where I spent a lovely few days with my family. It just goes too quickly though, doesn’t it?

On Thursday afternoon I hopped into my dad’s car, with Alfie, and headed up the motorway to Stoke-on-Trent. My granddad lives there with his two dogs and had kindly agreed to look after Alfie and my parent’s three dogs while we were in Wales. My other granddad, who we were going to be staying with, is allergic to dogs so we sadly couldn’t bring them along.

It was nice to see my granddad in Stoke, albeit briefly. He makes awesome cups of tea and always has some funny stories. He’s also reindeer obsessed and every year he goes to¬†Scotland to spend several weeks helping out with a reindeer sanctuary up there. He used to be a joiner before he retired and is always carving and making crazy creations from reindeer antlers that they’ve naturally dropped.

Reindeer garage

 

On his garage he painted a beautiful silhouette of reindeer too.

We then hopped back in the car for the last part of our journey to Llandudno. We left Southampton at 2pm and arrived at 9pm! I was definitely feeling a bit cabin feverish.

Friday morning we had a lovely walk in Conwy.

Conwy

The weather thankfully was good and we enjoyed a nice coffee sat outside a quaint cafe.

IMG_5388

In Conwy they have an interactive Alice and Wonderland trail for children to follow. There are wooden statues of different characters all over the town.

Alice and Wonderland Conwy

I saw Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum and the Rabbit. I’ve previously seen the Red Queen but that’s all I’ve found so far.

We also did a little bit of shopping and I found an amazing sweet shop where I just couldn’t help buying a few chocolates and marzipan fruit.

Conwy Sweet Shop

 

I had a little mosey in Dorothy Perkins and bought a new top as well…the first non-fitnessitem of clothing I’ve bought in a while!!

My grandparents are keen golfers (and despite my granddad being 82 he’s still a very keen walker and cyclist!) so for dinner they took us to their golf club’s restaurant. I had a delicious gammon steak with fried egg and new potatoes. And for pudding a blueberry Bakewell slice with ice cream. Heavenly!

Golf club pudding

Before getting injured I’d hoped to be able to run the Conwy parkrun on the Saturday but sadly this wasn’t possible. Every part of me desperately wanted to go but I stuck to my initial decision. I’d rather keep on recovering rather than attempt something foolish and delay it longer. It was tipping down with rain¬†in the¬†morning which was some consolation to not running, but I was still grumpy.

Luckily there was the Convwy Taste Festival going on over the weekend so I could take my mind off things by enjoying stupid amounts of food. The festival was just next to the water and down from the Conwy Castle – only a few minutes drive from my grandparent’s house handily!

Conwy Taste Festival

Despite the poor weather, the place was packed! You paid £8.50 for access to the large tents, where inside were loads of food and drink merchants selling their wares. And, importantly, letting you try them!!

ConwyTaste Festival

I tried¬†everything, as you can imagine. From chilli jams to sweet chutneys, from Welsh cakes to shortbread… balsamic vinegars, oils, hand-made marshmallows (the choc mint flavour was incredible), curry sauces, BBQ sauces, dried meats, pasties, pies, bread, waffles (best taster ever – a chunk of waffle dipped in caramel sauce…I considered sneaking back to that one to try it again), yogurts, fudge, sausages, meat and, of course, cakes!

Rocky road

I couldn’t not buy a slice of the rocky road…or the peanut butter¬†millionaire shortbread style cake. And then later a large slice of blondie. It took all the effort in the world to not gobble them all up quickly.

After we had all enjoyed so many different foods we decided to head outside of the main tent to look for lunch (I know, because at this point we were soooo hungry ;-)). There were so many different street food options it was quite overwhelming.

Conwy food festival

Thai, Mexican, Italian, Indian, Chinese, English (bangers & mash, fish & chips), pulled pork and BBQ, Caribbean, Moroccan, mussels… I literally walked up and down the street for a good ten minutes having no idea what to have. I did really fancy a large skewer of tandoori chicken but seen as how we were out for an Indian that evening I knew I needed to go safe and not have anything spicy or similar to what I’d eat that evening.

Lobster roll

In the end I went for a lobster roll and fries. I saw it being made and it looked amazing. And it tasted so good. Not the cheapest street food I’d ever had at ¬£10 (compared to the¬†¬£3.50 hot dog my dad had!) but it was fully worth it. My mum got a sausage roll from a different place to my dad and for the same price as my dad’s they packed in pretty much an entire pack of sausages!! Helpfully, we were all there to assist her ūüėČ

After a quick warm-up coffee we carried on walking around looking at the other food stalls (a few more tasters…) and some of the craft stalls as well. My day was made when I saw a dinosaur walking about – with a fully functioning roar.

Conwy food festival dinosaur

Such a great day. I loved it! We all agreed we definitely wanted to come back next year. It was a lot of fun. I came away with three cakes and a meat pack containing a zebra sausage (!!), a boar burger, pigeon breast, pheasant breast, venison steak, black pudding and a slice of bacon. Amazing.

That evening we went to a local Indian and had lots more food…

IMG_5464

I had a mixed Asian BBQ started followed by my favourite, tandoori chicken with onion salad. Yum.

I had a great long weekend with my family and it was sad to leave on the Sunday. It was nice to not be at home looking at my empty house still not moving and still not running *sighs*. I would have loved to have done some running while I was away, in such beautiful scenery (and apparently my granddad was going to bike alongside me) but it wasn’t to be. There’s always next time I suppose!

How was your weekend?

Would you have enjoyed the Taste Festival?

Do you like street food? What would you have chosen?