parkrun, afternoon tea and dogs – a few of my favourite things

For once, I was in Southampton this weekend.

I went to Netley Abbey parkrun on Saturday and was (semi) glad to see that we were doing the cricket pitch course rather than the winter course as there was an event setting up in the area on the summer course. The cricket pitch course (five laps around, you guessed it, a cricket pitch) is an exceptionally dull course. It’s flat and repetitive. However, I prefer it to the winter course has six hills and can be windy.

I helped set up, which was super quick because it’s a simple course, but all on grass so I gradually felt my feet getting more and more wet due to the previous day’s rain. Mike had sensibly brought a spare pair of shoes but unfortunately for him had not brought a spare pair of socks… haha. Wet feet all round.

The barcode sign in the distance in the middle of the field…

I did a quick warm-up (just over a kilometre) and found my legs to be quite heavy and tired. I had umm’ed and arr’ed as to whether I’d put some welly into this run but I could see it probably wouldn’t be that fast. We lined up and headed off. I had a long-sleeve on and even gloves as it was that chilly that morning! It was just a bit of a miserable morning – so different to last weekend (I’m sure all the London Marathoners and Southampton racers were feeling a little cheated).

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

The first mile was a slog and I quickly realised a quick time (for me) wasn’t really on the cards but decided to keep with the effort level and get a solid tempo effort in. I ambitiously wanted to stay around 7min/miles but on the second lap it just felt like a total graft to maintain any sort of speed. There were also tricky areas to navigate through as the grass got more and more muddy.

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

A man was running next to me who was using a metronome – basically it audibly gives off beats so he could work on his cadence (As he told me afterwards). At first I thought I’d find it annoying once I began hearing it but then it became very rhythmical and nice to zone out too. We stuck together for most of the run.On the final mile (and God knows what number lap – I had to keep count on my hand) I felt myself have a spurt of energy. Probably because at this point I just wanted to finish the monotony of running in circles on sodden grass. I finished in 21:19 and a surprisingly high finish of 24 (2nd female). I think a lot of people were resting their legs after London and Southampton half/marathon last weekend.I helped close down and had a drink in the cafe after. Two of my running friends, Kate and her husband Mark, are heading to Devon and it was fun discussing the parkrun challenges of them trying to get all the Devon ones – apparently there are quite a few! I think down South we do very well with parkruns, there always seem to be new ones cropping up all over the place. This is both good and frustrating because just when I thought I was almost done with Bristol and Brighton they start creating new ones!

Later that day I went for afternoon tea with my friends from home. I hadn’t seem them in a while so it was nice to catch up. It’s mental to me that so many have had babies or are pregnant. While also discussing about turning 30 and arranging a big joint birthday party and how we’ all getting “old” I had a moment of, “shit am I a failure here?”.

It’s so easy to find yourself falling down that silly comparison hole. I absolutely do not want a baby right now. I actually couldn’t think of anything worse. I have a lot of plans I’m excited about and I love my life. I love the freedom I have, my holidays and running… not that having a baby means that everything you once loved disappears but it certainly means change and a whole lot more responsibility and proper adulting. But I think it’s so easy to let society tell you you should be living your life in a certain way, especially when you’re surrounded by people who are living that way. I don’t regret the choices I made and the way things have gone – I’m very happy with my life 🙂 Random tangent over!Now onto the important stuff… 😉 Afternoon tea was good but it was a bit too “delicate” for my liking. I’m a big fan of the big slabs of cake and chunky scones and regular sandwiches. Teeny tiny “pretty” cakes aren’t really going to cut it with me. That said, I was the human dustbin for everyone else so I did get a good share of extra cakes and sandwiches!The scones were delicious and the sandwiches were nice but I didn’t massively enjoy the tart (which was like a bland egg custard tart) and I’m never really a fan of creamy desserts that are like posh yogurts (I think it was a lemon posset?). My friend Anna (good name) said to me, “Don’t look behind you Anna, it will really upset you”. Obviously I did… a whole table with so many scones and cakes left behind. NOT EATEN. What!?

Anyway it was lovely to catch up with my friends and eat cake. Good times.

The next morning I met my friend Martin (who I ran the Gosport Half with back in November). I haven’t seen him for a good while so it was nice to touch base with him again, especially while doing a very scenic (albeit hilly) 13 miles. We did an out and back route through Durley which was really very pretty and, for the most part, car free. The hills were pretty savage though!After finishing the run I dashed home to shower and eat breakfast quickly before heading back out to meet Mike for a dog walk. Mike has a 13 week year old Siberian Husky crossed with a Golden Retriever who is just adorable, called Luna. I brought Alfie so Luna had a new friend. We met up in Royal Victoria Country Park (where parkrun is held) and walked round the field before heading to the dog fair that was going on.Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many dogs in one day! There were just so many. All of different breeds and sizes. Alfie was a little bit more wary of the other dogs – he’s very much a lone wolf, whereas Luna wanted to play with EVERYONE and EVERYTHING. Ahh the excitement of a little puppy. I remember when Alfie was like that. He’s almost nine years old. That is MENTAL. I still remember how tiny he was when we picked him up and he sat in my lap. I also remember feeding him a slice of apple and then him promptly throwing it up on my lap five minutes later. Lovely.Anyway, we walked round the stalls, chatted to other dog owners and enjoyed watching the “dog recall” competition (how quickly your dog runs back to you – there was a leaderboard and everything). Then we sat and had a coffee in the cafe outside while Luna enjoyed chasing every napkin that flew past her while Alfie rolled his eyes and tried to avoid getting jumped on.They got on well though despite the age gap. It’s a shame the weather wasn’t a bit brighter but thankfully we dodged the rain on all accounts.

How was your weekend?

Do you like dogs?

How many courses does your parkrun have? Netley has several!

Catch Up

I woke up on Monday morning feeling every minute of the Tough Mudder I did on Sunday.

A mixture of sunburn, scratches all over my legs, bruises everywhere and the general ache of my muscles made me switch my usual gym alarm (4:57am – yes it’s so exact, I value those three minutes) to a more leisurely time of 7am. I didn’t even have to walk Alfie as he’s currently at my parent’s so it was a very gentle and lazy morning for me. I normally always at least have to walk Alfie so it was odd getting to work having walked only about 1,000 steps.

To be honest though, my body needed the rest! Coming into work on Monday, I was somewhat relieved to find George in a similar state of achy sunburnt tiredness. It was quite nice having someone at work who “got it” as normally I come in after a long run or race and no one cares or remotely understands really (not to their fault, I know I’m the minority here).

My run on Tuesday night was like running through thick mud. I felt so heavy and my legs were status “No Beuno”. I managed to slog through four miles though and felt the better for it despite the grind.It is nice though starting a run and thinking “if I feel good I’ll run six miles…” and then downgrading to four just because I can.Because I’m not training for anything or following any sort of plan. It’s just so nice. I have a couple of races in the plan and plans for the autumn but right of this minute I’m just happily winging whatever I fancy. And it feels gooood. Well, for now it does. I can already feel myself getting excited about getting back into more goal-focused training in a month or so.

In general life, things are pretty calm. I’m currently house-sitting for my parents. It’s a bit weird being back at home without my parents. I took a suitcase of clothes and some food with me to keep me going for the week (staples like apples, supplies to make work lunches, hot chocolate, etc.).

Handily though they have a second freezer in the garage and it’s well stocked with some recent MuscleFood items. I tend to buy from Muscle Food when they have a good deal going on but I don’t have the space in my freezer so my parents graciously allow me space in theirs. So I’ll be enjoying lots of meatballs, steak and chicken burgers!

The reason I’m house sitting is because my parents have three dogs and they’ve been looking after another dog too, also called Alfie (though I refer to him as Fake Alfie). And obviously the real Alfie is there too… so five dogs.

I already failed at the first hurdle by giving Fake Alfie a bowl of his treats rather than actual food. I personally blame my parents because the instructions they left were not clear. That’s my story anyway. Five dogs is fairly manic.I walk the two Aflies in the morning and evening but the other three are quite…well, I don’t want to say lazy, but they kind of are. They prefer to lie about sleeping or eating. Two Alfies on a walk though, ay ay ay. And the real Alfie is very much a lone wolf and doesn’t like being bothered by other dogs. He’s not aggressive or anything like that but he is very much Cold Shouldering the Fake Alfie and refuses to play (Fake Alfie is a puppy and loves ALL THE THINGS).I don’t mind staying at my parent’s house as I have my own bedroom (which they did up after I left and has a lovely soft double bed) but it’s an extra 20-30 minutes to work for me which is a ball ache, I won’t lie. It also means I can’t go to the gym in the morning. That said, it is nice not getting up at 4:57am at the moment and having a leisurely morning. Though I take my breakfast to work with me as I have to leave earlier. This means cold overnight oats which honestly does not rock my world.Even though it’s exactly the same amount of oats, milk and the protein powder I add to it (with some grated courgette for bulk and extra nutrients), it doesn’t taste as satisfying or feel as filling. Is this psychological? Or is it something about hot and cold food? Either way it’s pretty lame but only for a few days so I won’t moan.

My parents will be back Tuesday so my stint will be over soon and things will be back to normal again. I hate change 😉

Have you ever house sat before?

Have you ever looked after someone’s pet(s) for them when they’re away?

Overnight oats: yes or no?

Pomphrey parkrun and my favourite foods

One of my favourite things about parkrun is the fact that you can do it all over the UK (and many other countries!). Two of my friends, Kate and Jamie, have recently taken up running and came down from Bristol and did their first parkrun with me. Nothing makes me more proud and happy than when my ‘non-running’ friends get excited about running.

So it made sense for me to go to Bristol to do their local parkrun, Pomphrey Hill, with them. It would be their second and the first time I’d ever done this particular one. I’ve done Little Stoke which would have been super local for them (being a five minute drive away) but unfortunately we all know what happened to that parkrun Sad smile 

Anyway I drove up after work on Friday and Jamie cooked us all dinner. Jamie and me have very similar tastes and appetites, so I felt very happy to let him decide what we were having!

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Amazingly he had slow-cooked three turkey legs with a BBQ glaze for us each and also a beef brisket…because, why not? They also had lots of dips and salads (bless them, they know carbs aren’t big in my world!). It was delicious needless to say. Afterwards we had a slice of red velvet cake (carbs I can easily get on board with) and watched some telly. A perfect Friday night!
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In the morning we got up and got ready to pick up another of Kate’s friends and headed to Pomphrey Hill, which was about 20 minutes away.

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We didn’t really know much about the course other than it didn’t have a huge mammoth hill that the other Bristolian parkrun, Ashton Court, had. But we overheard a few people discussing the route and found that it definitely wasn’t flat.

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We did some warm-ups and then heard the first timer briefing. It was so friendly (isn’t it always?) and the lady who instructed us was very charismatic and funny. She then asked for any tourists to line up for a photo.

Pomphrey parkrunPhoto credit: Adrian Grimshaw

I kind of wish I’d worn my Netley parkrun top now but hey ho. I saw someone wearing a Little Stock one and it made me a little sad for that lost parkrun. The cafe near the start was cooking bacon and the smell was amazing but not really welcome considering none of us had had breakfast nor had money for post-parkrun food!

We then headed to line-up. It’s funny because since Kate and Jamie have started parkrun they highlighted something to me that I hadn’t really noticed before. Us runners just love being self-congratulatory. We clap for anything and everything: “any first timers?” *clap*, “well done to the volunteers” *clap*, “any 50ths?” *clap*, “any tourists?” *clap*. Though they agree that it’s a nice thing and adds to the friendliness and all-inclusivity.

IMG_3290Jamie and Kate have done so well to lose so much weight – check them out in this old post for a comparison!

The run director then gave us a quick briefing where we heard a bit more about the course. He left a pause after he said “and then you go…” and everyone shouted “up Pomphrey Hill!”. Uh oh. If there’s a motto for the hill you know it’s going to be bad.

It was three laps which included a small hill/incline going past the finish and then relatively flat swinging around the field and near a lake and then “up Pomphrey Hill!” which was horrifically steep but thankfully wasn’t that long. It did require a battle of wills though to not walk it. Then happily it was flat and then a lovely downhill round the corner back towards the finish again for another two laps.

IMG_3321Photo credit: Adrian Grimshaw

I found it really tough, I won’t lie. The hill was knackering but the down hills were nice. It was just hard to keep a good pace going seen as how I’m so unfit (in running terms). But it was an enjoyable run with lots of smiling marshals cheering us on and lots of people (338!) running to keep you motivated.

I felt stronger as the run progressed and didn’t walk the hill which I was pleased about. Towards the last lap I kept overtaking and being overtaken by one guy. At the end I managed to burn away from him and get to the finish just before him. I turned around and jokingly said “you almost had me!” and he completely blanked me. Like he heard what I said and chose to ignore me. It was just a bit of gentle banter – I was going to say that given 10 more seconds he’d have overtaken me again but clearly he didn’t want to talk. I chatted away to someone else instead.

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I finished in 24:01, 4th female and first in my age category. Damn those two seconds! But I was really pleased with that as I’ve been sitting around 24 minutes for most of my parkruns lately.

I know how tough I found that parkrun so I wasn’t sure how Kate and Jamie would find it as they don’t often run hills. Lee on Solent parkrun was dead flat so I hoped they were OK. Kate’s sister had come down with their parent’s 14 week old puppy to watch and cheer so I headed over to her to cheer Jamie and Kate in.

They both finished almost two minutes faster than Lee on Solent! Clearly their running is coming on in leaps and bounds. They found it very tough though (as did I) and we were all pretty shattered afterwards.

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But we were all really pleased with ourselves. Jamie and Kate were over the moon. It made my day to see them so happy!

IMG_3300Lola, the puppy, enjoying the attention

Kate’s friend, Catherine, finished just after them and, it being her first parkrun and 5k, did a stellar job. What a parkrun to do as your first though!

We then headed back to shower. Now I will fully admit that I am a Pokémon Go convert. I’m a nerd at heart and used to play Pokémon (both on the Gameboy and as the collectable cards) when I was younger so this is right up my street. Thankfully Jamie is also into it so the two of us were like little kids playing on our phones while Kate looked at us in exasperation. Happily we went on a walk with their adorable pug, Doug, to a Starbucks to grab a coffee and Jamie and me got our Pokémon fix. We could see a lot of other people walking around doing exactly the same, both old and young which was quite amusing. I think it’s a great idea to get people out and about (though the less said about idiots taking ridiculous risks the better…).

For lunch we’d planned on going to Spitfire again but the centre of Bristol was quite busy with a harbour festival going on so we went somewhere else instead. Jamie had found a pub, called Upton Inn, that had an “add on” smokehouse (Voodoo Q). We were intrigued.

IMG_3303The smokers

It was just a regular pub but out at the back there was a little sheltered outhouse thing being manned by a single guy. There was a separate menu for the BBQ food. We questioned him a bit about the different foods and he definitely knew his stuff (says the BBQ connoisseur, ha!). On the menu it said a rack of ribs was to share between two people. Jamie and me were sceptical – don’t they know of our rib eating prowess? Was it really a sharing thing? But after informing us that 1.2kg of ribs was probably a bit much for one person we were inclined to agree!

In the end we ordered one and half racks of ribs, beef brisket and 10 chicken wings. J also ordered some bean and chilli sides for him and Kate. The guy was amazing. He’d hosted a chilli party the night before and had a few “leftovers” that he said he’d chuck in as well for our eating pleasure. Amazing!

Upton Inn Voodoo Q

Everything was indeed amazing. The ribs were insanely huge and had a really smoky taste which was nice. The chicken wings were really good – best I’ve had in a good while. I didn’t manage any of the brisket (choose your battles). He’d given us four different home-made sauces as well to try. As we munched along, the guy then brought out some pork loin and sausages for us to try! It was never ending I tell you. But it was so good. The guy (I wish I’d gotten his name) wants to go into competing and just really loves people enjoying his food and that really shone with his service. If you’re in Bristol it’s definitely worth a visit!

On the way back to Kate and J’s (all feeling very full but content) we stopped by Kate’s parent’s house to pick up Lola, the puppy. Such a adorable dog.

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Really cute.

Then it was time for me to head back to Southampton. Needless to say a brilliant weekend. I know my BBQ food obsession has got a bit out of control lately but I just love it!

What’s your latest food obsession?

Do you enjoy BBQ food?

What attracts you to different parkruns? The course? The locality? The people who’ll be there?

The day before the Cheddar Gorge Marathon

Well I survived the Cheddar Gorge Marathon! I am so glad I did it, it was truly a fantastic race. I’ll do a full recap of it in another post but I’ll just say that it was tough, hilly but good fun. Marathon number four done!

Saturday I was quite chilled out. It’s funny because I’ve never felt this way the day before a marathon. I was nervous, yes, but more excited and strangely looking forward to it. With a vague finishing time of 4.30-5 hours in mind there was a lot of give so no pressures. I knew the terrain would be technical, hilly and generally tough. But while this was psychologically good to be fairly relaxed, this meant I was probably a bit too blasé when it came to proper preparation.

I felt I had the miles on my legs (though perhaps not enough trail running experience but I have been doing lots of hill work). What I mean by preparation is the food the day before. But I’ll roll back to the start of Saturday first.

I headed to parkrun in the morning to help set-up. It was a bit rushed and stressful as the guy who had the key to the shed where we keep all the parkrun paraphernalia was 20 minutes late. This meant we really had to get a move on to set the course up in time. Surprisingly though we did and it made us wonder what takes us so long normally – all the chatting probably!

Obviously with the marathon the next day I wanted to keep the pace fairly easy. Some people don’t like running the day before a race but I prefer it. I like to give my legs a good shake out, especially as the last time I ran was Thursday. My running club friend, Mark, and me ran together and pretty much chatted the entire way round. I always love parkruns the day before races because I know I shouldn’t push it and feel justified in taking it easy.

After packing things away I had to dash off to get home and sorted as my friend, Bhuvana, was hosting a garden party. She’s a (very close) friend from work so my mum and dad were invited too (my dad works at the same company as me) so they were pleased they could have a couple of drinks and get a lift there and back. I don’t normally drink anyway and it was hardly likely I would before a marathon anyway!

IMG_3266 I got to wear my new skirt again

There was a fantastic spread of Indian food (one of my favourite cuisines). Bhuvana knew I had a marathon the next day and was worried how the food would affect me so had made sure it wasn’t hugely spicy, bless her. I practically boasted that I had a stomach of steel and often had Indian takeaways the night before long runs. I’d be fine…!

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There was chicken tikka (my favourite), chicken tikka masala, a chickpea curry, samosas, rice, naan bread, poppadoms, salad and dips. Well, I was in my element as you can imagine and went for pretty much everything.

IMG_3269 I’m not a rice fan but knew I needed something a bit more carby so I had a naan bread, which I’m usually not a fan of either but the sauce required something to dip in so you gotta do what you gotta do 😉

I had another plate and a half and was lovely and full. Pudding was an Indian ice cream but I gave it a miss as I knew it’d push me over the edge and I can always give or take ice cream (unless it’s with a chocolate brownie).

And what do you do after eating a large load of Indian food? Jump on a trampoline of course!

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I love trampolines! I used to be in the trampoline club at school. It was brilliant. Though my tummy didn’t quite agree afterwards.

I had the usual conversations with a few non-runners when I mentioned about the marathon the next day. One said “how far is that? 25 miles?” and another “Is that in London?” which is always amusing. One woman said “I’m just happy to do 20 minute son the cross trainer every day and stay fit that way”. Absolutely fair enough – but to me that sounds unbelievably dull!

IMG_3274Bhuvana’s adorable little dog, Rain, who shakes her foot when she’s scratched 

After the party we headed back to my parent’s where I was spending the night. My mum and dad were coming to the marathon to support me so it made sense. [In the end my mum decided she would give it a miss as she wanted to stay with the dogs (three of theirs and my Alfie) so they wouldn’t be cooped up again all day and her back is still not 100% 🙁 I do jokingly call her a part-time supporter…anything more than 10k and she’ll flake on me (I am of course joking).]

As the evening drew in I knew I needed to eat something else, despite not feeling that hungry. I went for the safe option of porridge. We watched Still Alice (such a good film but prepare to cry for 80% of it) and then went to bed…

Do you run the day before a race?

What’s your favourite cuisine?

What’s your favourite curry?

The Scone Debate and dog selfies

My friends from university came down on Saturday for a visit… (*whispers* because it’s my birthday this week) Well we combined it with a sort of hen do celebration for my friend, Charlotte, who’s getting married in less than two weeks. She is doing a ‘planned elopement’ to Italy with her to-be hubby for a romantic ‘just them’ ceremony.

Sadly I couldn’t make Parkrun in the morning. It would just have been a nightmare to have got back in time and wash and dry the beast that is my hair. So many hours of my life wasted drying it…But I did manage a speedy 5k on my own earlier in the morning. Anyway, my friends arrived at 10ish. We had the usual hen do bits and pieces (penis straws are always standard, right?) and some cupcakes one of my friends had made to celebrate Charlotte’s wedding. We caught up and then headed out to my favourite tea shop

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Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately perhaps) it is very close, about 2 miles. So we walked there chatting. Girls just like chatting don’t we? Ben joined as well and was an honorary girl for the day 😉

IMG_6916I’ll never get sick of afternoon tea. I had ham and mustard sandwiches, a fruit scone with cream and jam and a slice of LEMON MERINGUE sponge cake. Sorry for the caps, I got all excited. There were pieces of meringue on the top all crushed and lovely. Seriously good cake. Though I must say, the best part of afternoon tea for me is the scone. And there’s always the debate of jam or cream first. I’m of the opinion that it should be jam first, then a dollop of cream. Otherwise the jam gets all smeary? But this is a fairly heated debate. Ben is a cream then jam man – how are we together?? 😉

Then we had a good long walk back through some lovely countryside. The next day was a five mile easy paced run and then a 15 mile bike ride. I never feel the same love for bike rides as running but it was nice. I still can’t not break on downhill’s though. A cardinal cycling sin I hear.

We popped over to my parent’s house later on as it was Father’s Day. We all just sort of monged out in the conservatory relaxing. Can parents ‘mong’ out? Not sure. We had some selfie fun with their absolutely mad dog Lexi.

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She is literally wired all the time. She’s the same breed as Alfie (Westland Terrier cross with a Cavalier King Charles) but she couldn’t be more different. She’s a beast. She’s eaten a bag of POTATOES before. And bitten through a can of beer, spraying it everywhere. What fun for my parents.

IMG_6927Ben doing his best ‘gangster’ impersonation. I think he’s been watching too much of The Wire…

Tonight I’m doing the Race for Life with my friend from work. She’s a fairly novice runner (and I mean that in the nicest way). She’s done a 5k race before and has now made the leap towards a 10k. She’s done lots of training and even went to her local Parkrun (ahh I’m so proud!) so I’m sure she’ll be fine. I’m going to run it with her and support her.

She told me last year she had no one to cheer her on or hug at the end because her husband and son didn’t really understand the importance of it and didn’t go (I think it’s a cultural thing, she’s Indian and in India running isn’t really done, or so I’ve been told). I found this heart breaking and said I’d sign up and run it with her. Ben is coming to support, my mum and dad will be there and she’s guilt tripped her husband and son into watching now so she’ll have loads of support. She’s hoping to run it in around an hour so finger’s crossed for her please!

Do you like a lot of support at a race? Both my parents and Ben’s mum love to come and watch and cheer us on. Though my dad properly likes to get involved – he likes to pre-read the course map, find a good spot, work out our paces of where will be when. He’s a runner at heart!

Do you have any pets?

The Big Question: jam or cream first?