A weekend of cancellations

So despite the spring-like temperatures and beaming sun during the week, the weekend didn’t look good. Cold temperatures, bitter winds and potentially snow. Again.

I had the Reading Half Marathon planned for the Sunday but before that parkrun and afternoon tea with friends. I was originally going to go to Queen Elizabeth Country Park for a friend’s 100th but I’d forgotten it was Netley parkrun’s 6th birthday and I hadn’t been there I ages and wouldn’t be back there in ages so it only felt right to go there instead. I headed there early Saturday morning to help set-up the course, as I always used to, and realised I might have misjudged the shorts weather. It was COLD. The wind was so icy and as Netley is right next to the waterside, you really felt it.I was in my biggest coat and scarf, but yes shorts. My hands were cold despite their gloves. It was a rather miserable setting up process indeed. Despite the weather, it was nice to be back and see everyone again. There were several jokes made about who I was because I hadn’t been there in so long, but it was all in good fun.After we set-up I decided to be very anti-social and sit back in my car. I was just so cold. Eventually Mike pulled me out and we went for a quick warm-up (me still in my coat) and neither of us felt any warmer afterwards. Ah well. We then headed to the start.I was a little sad that the run director didn’t actually mention that it was Netley’s 6th birthday (or at least I certainly didn’t hear a mention). It was a shame considering I’d been to such a good 6th birthday the week before…ah well. There was still lots of cake afterwards. Avtually it was probably a good thing not to have a lengthy pre-run brief because it was so bloody cold!

I started running with Mike but he sadly had a hamstring issue so I ran ahead while he played it safe. I decided to push the speed as I was just so cold. I had planned on running an easy run but when it came down to it, I couldn’t bare to plod along in the cold. I felt like the effort level was quite high, despite my pace not being my fastest. The wind along the front and the two hills you have to do twice just dragged my pace down. That said, I do think it was one of my fastest Netley parkruns on the winter course so I’ll happily take that!

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

A lot of people were volunteering because of the Eastleigh 10k the next day (quite a popular flat 10k amongst the local clubs – I’ve never done it as I hate 10ks) so I managed to scrape first female. But like I said, a hollow victory considering so many females weren’t running. Hey ho! 21:42 and 18th place – high positioning due to lack of numbers!I finished, grabbed a cake and a photo and then it was quick time to put my coat and scarf back on! Brrr!I had a slice of rocky road which was delicious. Rocky road has to be up there with one of my absolute favourites. Not technically a cake I guess but just SO good. I could eat an obscene amount of it quite easily. After we packed up the course (how quickly you get back to being cold despite having run a 5k) we headed to the cafe for a hot drink. It was so nice to be back chatting away to the usual gang with a hot peppermint tea. But parkrun tourism is still a big priority for me right now! Gotta get those letters 😉

After parkrun I headed home, showered and had a lovely stodgy bowl of porridge. I was meant to be going to afternoon tea with some friends but sadly a couple of them had to cancel so we called it off. I was a bit down about this as it would have been nice to have seem them but they have kids so different life priorities. Fair enough. My sister was coming over that afternoon to see my parents so I asked if she wanted to go instead. Happily she was keen. And she’s NEVER been to afternoon tea before. I mean, what kind of a life is that??

We went to the Vintage Tea Rooms in Fareham and it was fantastic. I had brie and chicken sandwiches, a fruit scone with clotted cream and jam and a slice of salted caramel cake. This cake was the SAME cake I’d had the other week! I was chuffed because I knew how amazing it was.It was lovely to catch up with my sister, who I don’t get to see that often due to our working schedules and just life. But it was nice to swap gossip and have some serious girl talk… nothing beats girl talk like it does talking to your big sis 😉I actually thought she’d struggle with the afternoon tea. She doesn’t have a crazy appetite like me, but she polished the lot off! I was genuinely disappointed as I thought I might get half her cake…but alas, she hoovered it all up. I was very proud indeed. That evening I set my alarm for 7am… the plan was for my dad and I to leave for Reading for the half marathon at 7.30am ish. We were to be parked in a car park about 3 miles from the start. I was going to run a gentle warm up to the start so I wouldn’t be so cold at the start (the temperature was looking to be very chilly) and then my dad would see me at mile 5 and mile 11. Despite so many other races around the country being cancelled Reading Half was still saying they were going ahead…and then later that evening that they’d update us closer to the time.They were getting a lot of stick from people saying that they needed to know earlier to know whether they should travel there or not as they were coming from a far distance away (quite understandable). I checked my phone several times during the night and then when my alarm went off at 7am I saw they’d Tweeted that it was cancelled because of the heavy snowfall during the night. I checked my dad had seen it too and then promptly headed back to bed for another two hours sleep. I was disappointed yes but at the same time it made sense to cancel it.It was very snowy outside here in Fareham so it would have been unsafe for us to have tried to have traveled. I still needed to get my long run done so I walked Alfie to check the temperature and the ground… snowy but not slippy, very very cold with an icy wind. I forwent my original choice of shorts and decided to be sensible and wear leggings. Not only to keep my legs warm but also if I did slip over to save my skin. I don’t need more ugly scratches over my legs!
I went out with the ambition to run at least 13 miles. It was tough underfoot to begin with but otherwise I felt good. My legs didn’t feel that tired. I had a podcast on and just zoned out, stopping a couple of times to take some photos because everywhere looked so pretty. It was tough going though mentally… I’ve become used to running with other people so running solo for so long was a bit tough. But to be honest, I needed to do this as I won’t be running the marathon with anyone so.As the run continued I felt better and decided to go with 14-16 miles. I had a good long run route where I could add or take away miles as I went so I didn’t stress. Along with it being mentally hard work, I found the icy wind hard work as it pushed against me all along the sea front – where quite a chunk of my run was and also cold. My hands, despite the gloves, were cold. As I got to about 9 miles I decided to make it 17 miles so added on another loop and then headed on the road back. I felt good, though cold. Imagine if I’d have worn my shorts eh!As I got to 13 miles I decided to speed up. I wanted the run to be done and the road I was on was a good one to get the legs turning over. I amazed myself by hitting 7.29min/mile and then 7.22…and even 7mins! But then I turned the corner and hit the wind. But my effort level remained the same so I felt strong finishing despite my pace creeping back up to 7.19. I was certainly glad to finish though. I know had I run Reading I’d have probably run the 13 miles at a faster pace but I was happy to have added some solid tempo miles at the end of this run. I got home and decided immediately I needed a hot bath. My lovely mum made me a cup of tea and enjoyed a glorious hot and relaxing bubble bath. I massively overheated but after being cold for so long it felt like BLISS. I haven’t had a hot bath in so long. In fact, I made it so hot that when I stepped into it I immediately had to jump out as it was the temperature of lava. I’m clearly very rusty at running baths. I must have stayed in there for a solid 40 minutes. I was a bit light-headed as I got out though and suddenly ravenous. A hot bowl of porridge was exactly what I needed 😉
It was sad to not have run Reading but it was just unfortunately one of those things. I was excited about running a slightly different course and seeing where my fitness was at but at the end of the day it wasn’t meant to be. I feel for the organisers as it must have been such a stressful time and they now have 15,000 medals that are essentially worthless. What a shame. But, for me, I managed another solid long run! Mentally and physically tough with the conditions.

Have you had a race cancel before?

Do you like baths or showers? I prefer showers because my hair is impossible to wash in a bath.

Can you finish afternoon tea easily?

Upton House parkrun and so much food

This weekend I managed to tick yet another parkrun letter off my parkrun Alphabet Challenge. I went to Upton House parkrun to get my U. It’s down in Poole, which is just over hour away from me. I few of us from my club decided to make a pilgrimage down there for some parkrun tourism and a spot of brunch.

On Saturday morning I got up at 6.20am to walk Alfie (a good test of seeing what the weather is like and how my leg felt). It was beautiful outside. Cold, but clear and still. Perfect running conditions. It was getting light as well which just makes me so happy. Spring is definitely on its way! Then I got myself together and drove to my friend’s Mike house so he could then drive the rest of the way.More chance of us actually arriving at the correct place that way, let’s be honest.
We did actually arrive a little too early at 8.15am. The others who we were meeting had arrived too so we sat, car side by side, in the car park (which is huge FYI and only a £1) keeping warm.Upton House parkrun is located in the Upton Country Park, a National Trust spot.It was such a lovely location and the sun was shining which made things very pleasant. There were toilets there as well so that was handy for a pre-parkrun wee.After the briefing, we headed to the start which was really narrow. Mike, Jim and I decided to move a bit closer to the front as it was so packed (not with the numbers of runners really, as there were only just under 300 people) but because the path was fairly narrow.We still had to wend our way around people when we started but after a few hundred metres it spaced out and we had enough room to pick up the pace a bit. Happily my leg felt fine and I just felt so happy to be running again.The course is one big loop, one smaller loop and then the first big loop again. I love this style of parkrun because it means you don’t get bored and having the break between the same two loops means it’s not as repetitive. It’s run on trails – a compacted stony trail which is great to run on.The route is very pretty and scenic. It starts within a woodland area then stretches out onto some grassland area where you run past some cows (within an enclosure) and then past a beautiful lake.It was lovely, really lovely. It’s mostly flat but there were a couple of undulations but really nothing crazy. In fact the start is very much downhill so you can gain some good speed.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Somers

Mike, Jim and I kept together as we ran and kept up the odd bit of conversation but I could feel that I’ve lost a lot of fitness. But to be honest, I don’t care because running without issue is my main goal right now. I could feel my hamstring crop up a little but I didn’t mind that as I’d rather it be my hamstring than calf as I know how to help my hamstring, whereas my calf has been a bit of a puzzle.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Somers

I slightly pulled ahead of the two fellas and stretched my legs a bit, everything still feeling reasonable. But as we hit the final hill to then head to the finish Jim stormed past me. Apparently he’d realised I wasn’t as strong on the hills and decided to use it to his advantage at the end. Crafty but fair play! I couldn’t have caught him if I’d have wanted to.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Somers

In the end I finished with 23:13 feeling very happy. All my bits and pieces felt fine and I’d gotten my U! The others all said the same thing: Upton House parkrun is a beautiful and friendly course. I really wish it was closer as honestly I’d do this one all the time if I could. I loved it. OK perhaps the good weather helped but it just seemed like such a great set-up with how the loops worked. I signed the guest book (another nice touch at a parkrun) and chatted to some of the local runners. I mentioned about the parkrun Alphabet Challenge and they were quite bemused. Clearly not a very well known thing perhaps!Then we headed to the tearoom literally a stone throw’s away and had a nice cup of coffee and a natter.Sadly the tea room didn’t do anything more elaborate than toast or cake for breakfast so Mike and me decided to hunt out something more substantial on the way back home. Brunch was definitely in order!

 

We found a Haskins Garden Centre not too far down the road with a fantastic restaurant serving a good selection of hot and cold breakfast material. We went for the “8 piece” breakfast (you could pick the items you wanted).I loved that they had black pudding (a weakness of mine) but the scrambled egg was rather rubbery and tasteless. But otherwise it was a very yummy and sustaining breakfast.A very lovely morning indeed. I spent the rest of the day doing some deep cleaning in the house. I was just in one of those moods where I needed to busy myself and expel a load of energy. I do quite enjoy cleaning so it was nice to just put some music on and do some cleaning that doesn’t get done that often (like cupboards and hard to reach places…with dogs it’s hard to keep everything pristine!)

That evening my parents and I went to the Chilworth Arms for dinner to celebrate my dad’s birthday which had been on the Wednesday. I always feel sorry for my dad because sharing his birthday with Valentine’s Day always makes going out for a nice meal a bit tricky as everyone else seems to be doing that too and you usually get some generic set menus themed around it, which I always find a bit lame. And plus, because my parents are so disgustingly in love, my dad likes to treat my mum so really he doesn’t get the sole attention he deserves.
I hadn’t eaten since the earlier brunch (though it had been a large brunch of course) I was now really ready for food. Though my parents are still on the Slimming World wagon they decided to just enjoy a nice meal out without worrying too much about Syns and things like that. So we ordered a baked Camembert and a “grazing” sharing platter, which had lots of different meaty bits and pieces like chicken, lamb koftas, chorizo and pulled pork croquettes.

It was all so tasty. And happily the grazing platter had more than two of most things (food anxiety of sharing swerved…ha). I probably ate about 3/4 of the Camembert though. My stomach knows no bounds clearly as I was then very much ready for the main. Although I was initially tempted by the spit-roasted chicken I decided to step out of my standard food choice box and order something different. I went for the pan-friend venison and it was delicious. The gravy (jus? sauce?) was SO good.

A nice change! I should do this more often… Though saying that, I chose a different pudding than I’d have normally gone for too. Instead of being tempted by the brownie (always a safe tho delicious choice for me) I decided on having the apple and berry crumble (with ice cream not custard tho). It was fantastic!

My dad went for something a bit more extravagant with the chocolate orange bomb. Even though this sounded delicious, I really can’t stand chocolate orange together. It came out and the waitress poured molten chocolate sauce over the chocolate sphere thing. It eventually collapsed and melted. It was rather impressive. It left a few big chocolate chunks in a bowl of what looked like chocolate soup. My dad loved it for all of about three spoonful until it started to get sickly and too much. I was so impressed with him. In another life it seems this was the man who was able to eat entire packets of chocolate biscuits. He said he didn’t want to carry on eating it in fear that it would put him off chocolate forever ha.

The next morning I was supposed to run a few miles with Mike. We had both said we’d confirm for definite before 9am if we both fancied it as he had a slightly niggling hamstring and I wasn’t sure how everything for me would feel post-parkrun. Sadly Mike bailed as his hamstring wasn’t good. I’d slept badly that night – you know when you wake up mid-sleep and stare at the ceiling for an hour? Yeah that’s fun. So I was quite glad to roll back over and have a more lazy morning, rather than being on a timescale to get somewhere to meet someone.

In the end I headed out around 9.30am. I didn’t know how far I’d go as I didn’t want to stress my leg out. In the end I decided around 4 miles was good. My hamstring didn’t feel amazing, but it didn’t get worse. My calf felt fine. I’m happy with that outcome because I know how to help my hamstring whereas for my calf I’m literally in the dark. The hamstring is something I’ve had to deal with for a while and know what stretches and exercises to do and trigger points to work on. I just need to not aggravate it too much to mean I need to take a lot of time off to let it calm down, if that makes sense. Trying to keep it manageable for the moment.I went to the gym afterwards to do a bit of what I call “topping up” cardio as I want to maintain a level of fitness for any long runs. It also helps my sanity a bit – it’s standard ‘Anna Behaviour’ to over-worry about things like upcoming marathons, so doing this sort of thing calms those inner demons. Especially when I compare myself to other people doing the same marathon or marathons around the same time. Plus as I only let myself watch Peaky Blinders on the cross-trainer at the gym (to keep me from despising that machine and have positive connotations towards it) it was a fun 50 minutes.

So other than some more cleaning/sorting and usual jobs I needed to do, my Sunday was pretty chilled and relaxing.

Do you have any standard food orders you make at a restaurant?

Have you ever done a parkrun that you wish was closer to where you live?

Do you watch anything when you use a cardio machine at the gym?

The Dubai Marathon 2018

The alarm went off at 5am. I was aiming to be in a taxi between 5-5.45am. The journey to the start-line was only ten minutes away and we were advised to get there 90 minutes before the beginning (7am) – but I thought an hour would be more than enough time (very glad I did this!). The race was originally supposed to start at 6.30am but I found at the Expo they’d changed it to 7am which was good in terms of having more sleep but not as good in terms of the temperature.

In the morning I got my kit on, including my dad’s jumper to throwaway at the start as it was cool in the early morning, popped my porridge in the microwave that I’d prepared the night before (we were staying in an apartment with a kitchen), went to the loo and said goodbye to my mum. She was heading down to the finish area around 7am to mosey about and catch me running.I had a mini porridge meltdown, literally! My amazing container I’d gotten from Waitrose (yes Waitrose) the day before had melted a bit! (I had no milk but brought a sachet of chocolate protein powder which helped make it taste a bit less bland).
I had no time and no other breakfast options so I just took it with me and hoped I’d not die from plastic contamination.

I got a taxi (they work 24/7) and asked him to take me to the marathon start and after he looked confused I clarified with the Dubai Police Academy. As we got closer to the start area he said to me the roads were closed and couldn’t go any further. He still looked confused when I explained I knew and it was due to the marathon. The marathon was not really known about to people who weren’t involved. I jumped out and surveyed the start area.It was super foggy and dark. It wasn’t that cold – maybe 12-15 degrees Celsius? Positively balmy for us Brits 😉 I ate my porridge (didn’t taste of plastic. Win!), drank my Beet It! shot and then decided to find the loos. The loos (not portable loos but more like posh proper temporary loos) were literally a 10 minutes walk away from the start.There were no loos near the start. I went to the loo, then walked back to the start. It was 6.15ish… 45 minutes to go. So I turned around and walked back to the loo again. Might as well! Nothing else to do.What I really didn’t like was that as the start is right next to the finish we could see all the boxes of medals and could see the finish-line. In fact we had to walk through it. I was getting very bad joujou! What was odd as well was that there were non-runners in this area supporting their runners. So you’d see people clearly not going to be running the marathon (in jeans and flip flops etc.) just hanging around the start area. I guess that’s not too odd but it felt weird as normally you’re separated at this point.Then they opened up the proper start but where we could see the start funnel thing. As we walked along there were barriers keeping us in and on the other side of the barriers and road I spotted more loos… a couple spotted them too and conspiratorially we all decided to hop the barriers and use them quickly. The security didn’t look very happy and when I tried to re-hop back over the security tried to stop me but I begged them to let me through rather than walk all the way back round. Very cheeky I know. They kindly let me through, telling me to go quickly. Whew! I ran across the road and then did a Tom Cruise barrel roll over the final barrier and felt like a superhero 😉 I got a few chuckles from other runners.There were lots of different nationalities. Lots of Americans and Brits. I saw some Poles, some Swedes… a good mix! And then we were off!I’d been worried about my calf but as I started running it felt fine. Good good. But we’re only on mile one. It was less foggy now as the sun was rising. The first “chunk” of the race was the 10k out and back. This was the route that the 10k race (starting a few hours later) would be doing.I’d broken the race down in my head in the most obviously way: 10k, then the two loops (another out and back that runs up the Jumeriah Beach Road). I assumed the loop was around 10 miles.As I was running I felt mentally in a very bad place. I had a lot of anxiety in my tummy that I’d never felt before. Normally I’m really excited when the marathon actually begins. It’s all “oooh” and “ahh” and fresh and lovely at the beginning. You’re running a marathon! This is cool! Look at me go! But not this time.I was dreading the course. I had no major milestones to get excited about, no major variations in the course to prepare for. Just a lot of long roads. As I’d felt this way leading up to the marathon in the days before (especially after seeing the road I was going to run along) I’d prepared for this by creating a “feel good” playlist. Normally I only listen to music in the last 10k to power me through to the finish.But I decided I’d have some music to power me through the first boring bits – but not “go go go” music. Just music I enjoyed and could zone out to.I made myself wait until the first 10k was over though before starting it. I wanted to make it really worth it after a chunk of silence. I really needed a wee (yes another one) but there weren’t many loos on the course. I saw people dash into nearby bushes and I realised I’d run out of bushes soon as we got onto the main loop as it would be buildings and shops on the sides, whereas the first 10k was going past fancy hotels with big foliage areas and the beach. I was clearly umming and arr’ing about it as he man next to me laughed and said “just go and do it!” So I dashed off and under what I can only describe as a very light coverage had a quick wee. I imagine several people probably saw my bum. Hey ho.As I headed to the first loop I saw my mum ahead. That really boosted my mood up! I was so chuffed she’d gotten there safely and I’d seen her! She’s not quite my dad’s levels of support (physically I mean, my mum supports in other ways too of course).So I finished the first 10k, whacked the playlist on and zoned out. Ahh just what I needed. I felt much better – music and seeing my mum. My calf felt absolutely fine – hurrah! I still didn’t feel well tho. I could feel I wasn’t quite right – but I kept an eye on my heart rate to make sure it didn’t start to spike really high. It seemed OK.There were no mile markers, just kilometres. I tried to work out how the first “out” of the first loop was but my brain couldn’t do it. This frustrated me as I wanted to know how far I’d be running away from the finish. It didn’t help that because it was two laps the km markers were mixed up with the laps.I tried not to think too deeply that I’d be back on that same stretch after a few hours… The Burj Al Arab (above photo) was basically at the point when you’d start the next lap. It’s a fantastic building but ultimately quite dull after you’ve seen it once. And literally the only landmark on the course (there’s probably more and this is very narrow minded of me to say).What I noticed a lot of was runners who had friend(s) cycling next to them keeping them company. There was enough space on the wide roads (nothing like the closeness of some other big marathons like London or Berlin). It seemed bizarre them being there. But I guess nice for people to support in this way. I also saw a guy running while kicking a football which was fun to watch! Turns out he was trying to break the world record. I don’t know if he managed it and I’ve tried Googling but to no avail!A cool sports car thing drove past and I tried to get a selfie next to it as it was driving slowly.Finally I started to see people running down the other side of the road and this gave me some indication that the turning point was coming up. I tried to do the maths again by using the km markers on the other side of the road to work out how far it would be. It made my brain hurt.Finally I reached the turnaround point. It was a relief to be heading back down towards the end of the loop, though I knew I had a way to go yet.The sun was now shining and it was warm. Every water station I grabbed a water (mini bottles), took a gulp then tipped it over my head, arms and legs. This helped keep me cool for a chunk of time. I was glad I’d decided to take my sunglasses with me as there was no shade. Speaking of the water stations, they were quite disorganised at the beginning. Some of them by even set up and the volunteers scrabbling in the plastic to grab the bottles and get them set out in time. There were energy drinks in cans but I didn’t try any, and no gels or fruit. They did have sponges and buckets of water tho. There were Nike cheer groups (I think they were Nike!) and other local running groups tho who were great and waved flags, clapped and cheered and handed out extra water and trays of fruit.As I got to 13 miles I decided to switch to a podcast (to maximise the effect of my music at mile 20). That helped pass the time. The road was so long and the fact I couldn’t see the Burj Al Arab ahead further clarified how I’d be on this same road for a good chunk of time. The buildings on either side were just shops. I made little milestones in my head (Starbucks, KFC, Costa…). I spotted a guy taking a photo of his friend (neither of them running) in front of the course so I’d dived behind and photo bombed it. They laughed and cheered me which was good! Finally I got back to the Burj Al Arab and knew I’d be turning soon (my 3rd turning it of a total of 4 in the entire race FYI).I spotted my mum again which was great. And then as I hit the turnaround bit I saw her again as I started my second loop.It was nice to see a friendly face and I updated her that I felt hot and tired but was OK. Just over nine miles to go.Whew, second loop. Last time I’d run on that road now. But jeeze did it go on and on. I worked out I’d have four miles to run up it. Four miles in a single direction is flipping awful by the way. With every step forward I knew would mean one step further away from the finish that I’d have to run the other way. It was mentally destroying.As I hit 18 miles (that’s me trying to show my watch in the selfie above) I was mentally struggling. The road was killing me. It was just so long and straight. The sun was beating down. There weren’t many people around me to latch on to. It was tough.I tried to grab some energy from the spectators by waving and smiling and clapping – that always helps get them cheering you which boosts you along I find. Plus it’s nice for them rather than you just being another miserable looking runner 😉 I hadn’t taken any gels yet as I hadn’t felt completely right but now my energy had dipped I decided to have one. I threw the other away – I wouldn’t use it and didn’t want to carry it. Any extra baggage was draining right now.I couldn’t wait to get to “just a parkrun to go”. I was using road signs, spectators ahead… anything to break down the distance. I started counting down the kilometres and they seemed to crawl by so slowly. Despite this my pace had picked up. I went past a man and he asked where my energy had come from. I replied I just wanted to finish.I took the above selfie at “one parkrun to go”… that was my thinking with the single finger ha! Around me a lot of people were walking. Though a man overtook me looking strong and peeled ahead so I kept him in my sight and tried to use him to drag me along. We were both overtaking quite a few people. It was so hot. I was still pouring water on myself to keep cool. I got a notification on my watch saying my dad had text saying “just a parkrun to go” from my dad which was JUST what I needed. Yes he was slightly out of sync as I only had just under two miles to go now but it was so nice to know he was tacking and spurring me on.

I saw the bloody Burj Al Arab again and then the sign for “To the Finish”. Yes! Less than a mile to go and I was on the edge. My legs felt like they were going through porridge. Surprisingly my pace was still good… just hold on! It was literally a case of mind over matter. One foot in front of the other. The final straight to the finish was the WORST. The finish funnel seemed miles ahead. There were spectators either side of the road but not vast numbers. I just tried to not stop. My legs were struggling! And then I finished. Whew.

My god. Stopping I felt dizzy and exhausted. I lent on the barrier and just thanked everything holy that I could finally stop running. My time was 3:39:58, just dipping under 3:40. Very pleased indeed!I shuffled along with the other runners, got my medal, some water, a banana, a protein bar, some vitamin water and then tried to find my way out. It was really confusing and I had no idea where to go. I mean, I was post-marathon confused so that didn’t help! I decided to ring my mum as that would be the most sensible thing to do to find her. Bless her she hadn’t realised I’d finished, despite sitting in the stands at the finish-line.Thankfully we found each other fairly quickly. We decided to head to the Souk Madinat Jumeirah which was nearby so we could sit and take a moment. We knew there was a Starbucks in there. It seemed a fitting place to collapse – it’s exactly what we did when I did the Boston Marathon!I also wanted to meet up with the lovely Lily who writes the blog Lily Lipstick who currently lives in Dubai. She was actually the one that first got me thinking about doing the marathon and originally she’d even offered to let me stay at hers. But then my mum fancied joining and it seemed sensible to get a hotel. Lily has helped me so much with all my Dubai related questions (what I could wear, where to go, what plugs I’d need etc.). She was doing the 10k which started at 9am and we were going to meet and have lunch but annoyingly my mum and I had to check-out of our hotel at 2pm (originally we were told 11am, which wouldn’t have been possible at all but thankfully we negotiated 2pm before I booked). 2pm was still this was pushing it as I needed to get back and shower. I messaged Lily telling her we were in Starbucks and she said she’d come and join and have a coffee with us.Lily brought her boyfriend and the four of us sat and chatted with iced coffees. It was lovely. It was so nice to chat and hear about Dubai from them – as they both live and work there. But we were both hot and shattered from the run!

My mum was tired too, bless her. She’d walked a long way as well. It was the hottest day so far. After the coffee we parted ways and my mum and I had a tricky job of trying to find a taxi to get us back to the hotel. The roads were only just opening up after the marathon and the road the marathon took place on is quite a busy one so hailing a cab is very tricky. A car, that didn’t look like the traditional taxi, stopped and said he was a taxi and we jumped in. Reading that sentence… yes I know. Absolute idiots the two of us. I told him the hotel name and area and he said OK, though unlike most of the other taxi drivers he didn’t speak English.

He took us on an unfamiliar route but it made sense at the time as the roads were still closed in different places. At one point we went over a dirt track and I suddenly felt scared. Where were we? He could do anything right now. We were very, very stupid looking back. We did that ridiculous British thing though of not saying anything and waiting it out rather than questioning where we were going. When he eventually stopped we were not in our hotel area at all. I was like “er no this isn’t it”. So he made me type into his phone on Google Maps the hotel name. Thankfully we weren’t far away. When we stopped outside the RIGHT place this time he asked for 50AED. Now from the area we were in to the hotel I knew it should have been around 20AED had we gone straight there. I point blank refused and said “no way, I’ll pay 30”. He argued with me and honestly I would have only give 30 had I not had only two 20s. It was his lucky day. We got out of that taxi very fast.

The rest of the day… I won’t bore you. We had a long day ahead as our flight was at 2:50am. I had a fairly rough time of it as I was getting some seriously bad stomach cramps and starting to feel the effects of running through not being well. Thankfully I was able to eat (when am I not, let’s be honest) and topped up my calories sufficiently through the day. To be honest, the choice of restaurant was just the closest one. I’m not a huge Italian fan (not liking pasta…) but we ended up in an Italian restaurant purely because the host mentioned they do burgers. SOLD!I had a double burger with fries. Bliss. Later on after we meandered around the Jumeriah Beach Resort area and then down the Marina we chilled out in another Starbucks with a coffee and a giant doughnut (for me). Perfection.So in closing, I don’t recommend the Dubai Marathon. It is mentally tough with the boring course and physically hard with the heat (it was a hot heat and not a humid heat thankfully). It didn’t have the glamour of the Majors despite being a bigger marathon and it felt rather lonely at times as the course was so wide and the numbers not big enough. But it’s done and I’m pleased. And the calf survived! It feels fine… though the real test will be when I get running again.

Have you ever been to Dubai?

Have you ever run a boring course? How did you get through?

Have you ever run when ill?

New Year’s Day Swim

New Year’s Eve was pretty quiet this year. No big parties, getting drunk and waking up with a hangover.

Instead I had a lovely evening with the family playing games and eating good food. Sadly I missed parkrun on Saturday due to my calf. With Dubai being so close I don’t want to turn a niggle into an injury. I know I can run the marathon and that I have enough time to let the calf sort itself out IF I’m sensible. But if I try and push through the tightness and discomfort then it could become something serious and I won’t be able to run Dubai.

So I was sensible. I went to the gym instead (something I don’t do at the weekend) and spent some quality time on the elliptical machine. The weather was fairly awful over the weekend with windy showers so actually I wasn’t too sad to miss a cold and blustery run. I watched The Sinner and got in some solid cardio. Of course nothing beats parkrun in terms of those warm, fuzzy feelings and the social elements of it but with Dubai creeping closer and the motivation for the gym at its best during the morning, parkrun had to be missed.

I knew I wouldn’t be doing the double parkrun on New Year’s Day either, as much as I’d loved to have gone. I was quite down about it but decided instead of moping I’d do something completely different to take my mind off of it. As I live near the Solent I’d often heard about people taking a dip in the sea on New Year’s Day. I decided I’d give it a go! I’m not really a swimmer – I can swim, I just don’t enjoy it (it’s such a faff, especially with my hair and I don’t get any sort of runner ‘s high-like feeling from it) and I really am not a fan of swimming in the sea. But it would be a challenge and an experience.

Initially I thought I’d just go down to the beach and do it on my own – or with a mini support crew that is my parents and granddad. But my mum mentioned that the Lifeboat people (GAFIRS) do an organised event at Stokes Bay every year. That sounded far better. The thought of doing it on my own sounded horrific, but with a bunch of other people it sounded…fun? All I had to do was register online and show up at 11.45am.

This was ideal as it meant I could go to the gym in the morning to do some cross-training beforehand (effectively doing what I would be doing if I had gone to parkrun) and then eat breakfast and go to the beach. Luckily Stokes Bay is close so it wasn’t a trek to get there.Unfortunately it was tipping it down!IMG_2403I’d decided to keep it simple and wear my running shorts and a sports bra as I knew wearing anything more would only make things worse with the cold water. Basically, wearing less is better! Though when we arrived and I spotted lots of people wearing fancy dress.
IMG_2402I was quite envious of the people wearing onesies or who were more covered up – they looked far warmer. Of course I had my layers on beforehand thankfully and my dad ready to hold on to them when I went it. I had my flipflops on (the best I could do at such short notice) and a thick towel in a bag ready with some dry clothes as well to put on. I was very well prepared.IMG_2411My mum and granddad found a good spot on the side of the beach with the other spectators. My granddad made me laugh later when he said my mum was “lethal” with her umbrella. She’s quite short and I don’t think she was quite aware of how many people she was poking…The GAFIRs had put on a great welcome for everyone with hot drinks, cakes, snacks and even a steaming buffet of chili! As someone who lives near the sea I fully appreciate the work these guys do. The lifeboats and the coastguard must work in some terrible conditions at times. So this event is fantastic at helping raise money for their charity.IMG_2404.jpgAt 11:50 they told us to get ready and stand on the slipway. There were almost 400 people that were going to be entering the water so things needed to be fairly well organised. There were lots of spectators huddled under umbrellas and photographers taking our photo.IMG_2405It was funny because I got my dad to take a quick photo on the slipway in my “swimming gear” and suddenly about four photographers started taking my photo too… You can see my dad in the background looking a bit awkward (and slightly Russian…) haha!
IMG_2466Not my best look it must be said!IMG_2465But anyway, we all stripped down to our gear and got ready on the slipway. My feet by this point were freezing. I’d been in my flipflops from the beginning and the cold rain had really chilled them to the bone. We stood like penguins together, all shivering and honestly I would have cuddled up to anyone I could at that point I was so cold. Big burly men were looking rather appealing! The organiser on the megaphone told us it would be eight minutes before we’d be released. WHAT. There was a huge collective groan from everyone as we realised we’d be standing there in the cold for a while. Others around me were dressed in a wetsuits (cheating really), swimsuits, trunks, fancy dress and everything in between. Two lovely ladies next to me said their children had signed them up to do it which made me laugh.

What felt like an eternity later we were told “five minutes to go”. At this point I was hopping up and down and rubbing my arms furiously to try and not die (well, that’s what it seemed like it anyway). It’s funny because the whole set-up felt a bit like a pre-race bit. The excitement, nerves, the huddles of people…OK half-naked people but people with intentions anyway! The only thing was I knew in 10 minutes time I wouldn’t be warmer, as I would be in race, I would be very much colder.

FINALLY we counted down 10 seconds and then the ribbon was lifted (by the Mayor of Gosport no less – no she wasn’t going in) and we all stumbled/ran/walked into the water. I mean, it was cold but it wasn’t like Jack floating in the ocean cold. In fact, the water was warmer, so they said, than the temperature outside. But it was still bloody freezing. The shock of it as it hit your skin was really quite something.IMG_2423Everyone was screaming, splashing and laughing and it was rather exhilarating. I made sure to fully plunge myself in (though not my head; they warned us from doing this because we might go into shock!). I felt my flipflops slip off my feet as I stepped forward, but there was no way I was going back for them. And then I quickly got myself out of there. To climb the pebbly shore back to the slipway was SO painful. My feet were in agony, they were so cold.

Bless my dad he practically ran over to me and then quickly wrapped the towel around me (though in his haste he did manage to drop my clean, dry clothes into the puddles then step on them *sighs*). We then huddled in the doorway to the lifeboat centre while I got a bit warmer. Everyone around us was in the same boat (excuse the pun): freezing, a bit in shock but, as I was, very much happy. It was a fantastic experience!IMG_2408The only bad part was my walk back to the car, which really wasn’t far away but my feet were now in agony. My big toes had gone numb and it was just awful. My mum tried to guide me back but she was walking too quickly (I say “quickly” but really we were crawling along) and she had to slow down further for me. My granddad had gone ahead to warm up the car – the invalid that I was now!IMG_2409It might have been nice to have hung around a bit and chatted to the other people but it was just so cold and the rain was still coming down so we thought it best to head off. I was very grateful for the warm car – though really it was only my feet that were still frozen. The rest of me felt quite invigorated. My dad gave me his fluffy hat to put my feet in, bless him.

I went straight for a hot shower after getting home. This sounds like a broken record now, but the pain of the hot water on my feet was almost worse! The bottom of my toes were tingling awfully. Would I do it again? Absolutely! It was such a thrill and full of comradery with the other people. But next time I would DEFINITELY wear better shoes – like those wetsuit style ones. They’d be far better! I would also probably wear fancy dress because, well, it’s a bit more a laugh then! 😉

The rest of the day, after finally getting warm and my feet feeling normal again, we spent dog walking, playing games and enjoying a delicious chicken roast dinner.IMG_2412Obviously it would have been lovely to have started the year with a run but the swim was fantastic. Plus my calf is feeling far better so I’m not stressed 🙂

Have you ever done a New Year’s Day swim?

Do you like swimming in the sea?

Did you do the double parkrun?

Double parkrun and Christmas

Another Christmas done! This year felt very quick indeed. For the first time in MANY years I’m back at work during the three days between Christmas and New Year so it hasn’t really felt like a proper Christmas at all. But hey ho, such is life when you need to take a chunk of holiday in January!

The weekend before Christmas was a bit weird. It felt odd having such a big lead-up to the day. I guess I’ve gotten used to the past couple of years where you finish work on the Friday and then it’s Christmas very soon after. Did anyone else feel this? Or maybe it was just more noticeable to me because I would be back at work on the Wednesday.

On Saturday I decided instead of going to the Netley parkrun or anywhere further afield I would go to Lee-On-Solent instead. This meant I could also run there and back and get a solid 10 miles in and then I wouldn’t have to worry Sunday. Not only that but I’d be running on Monday for the Christmas parkrun. My calves have weirdly felt very tight so I didn’t want to push things. On that note, it’s weird because they started feeling tight after I changed my trainers a week or so before the marathon (I went from Adidas Boost Supernova Sequences to ASICS Gel Exalts) and my calves felt TERRIBLE. So I tried to buy new Supernovas ASAP but as I’m an idiot I’d already thrown away the older trainers so had to continue using the ASICS until the new ones arrive and this just made my calves feel worse.IMG_2109During my run to parkrun they still felt tight and the left one uncomfortably so. As my legs were still tired from the marathon I decided not to push parkrun. I turned up to Lee and saw so many people wearing festive fancy dress… ahh damn!IMG_2086I love fancy dress and happily would have joined in (though saying that, I’d have had to have run there and back so maybe it was for the best…). My friend Rebecca had made a fantastic effort as a Christmas pudding – she looked amazing! IMG_2085There was also a band playing festive tunes which was lovely. Lee splitsMy time was 22:18. (for my 158th parkrun!). I then headed off home soon after. On my run home I spotted confetti on the floor in lovely shades of pink and purple. As I passed it by I briefly thought “ahh that matches my running gear” and as I got to the top of the road I decided it was too good an opportunity to miss so turned around and went back to do a very “Insta-worthy” photo – one for the ‘gram as all the kids are saying 😉IMG_2115The rest of the day was spent sorting stuff out for Christmas (food, tidying, presents, etc.). My dad had braved the food shops with my grandad (who was down from Stoke) so I’d missed that joyous job (ha!).

On Sunday I had contemplated another run but with my calves not feeling right at all I decided a day of rest was best. I cursed myself for writing a bloody blog post on not being injured. Honestly, I do know how to tempt fate don’t I? Never, EVER again will I be so arrogant to assume I’m out of the runner god’s sniper sight.IMG_2134Instead I went out with my family to Romsey where we’d be reliably informed (by Facebook no less…) that there would be a Christmas market. Well, I assure you it was not a Christmas market. It was just a market and really wouldn’t have been out of place any day of the year. But hey ho. There was a gin stand (my mother was happy!), pies, meat, vegetables, bread and cakes. Not bad but not Christmassy. We had a nice walk round Romsey, which is a very quaint English town and then headed home for an evening watching films (finally saw Sully, brilliant!) while doing a jigsaws puzzle. Rock and, indeed, roll.IMG_2140Christmas morning I was off to Netley for the annual Christmas parkrun. My dad was going to come but as the turkey had still been frozen the day before it meant he needed to attend to it that morning (usually my parents cook the turkey overnight). To be fair, it was probably for the best as the weather at Queen Victoria Country Park was AWFUL.IMG_2146I headed down early to help set-up and we all miserably set a “skeleton” course out (which basically means we didn’t do all the flags and cones because the majority of people coming that day would have come before so would know where to go and it would mean we could pack up quicker to go home at the end).IMG_2147The wind was blowing an absolute gale. As we were on the winter course it meant that we were right next to the water’s edge and it was so cold and wild. I had come dressed in my elf outfit and was quite thankful for the extra layer of wool and hat!IMG_2153The wind along the front was AWFUL and I felt so unfit struggling against it, especially going up the hill. But by mile two I managed to feel a bit more “with it”. My left calf was really not happy though. Bugger. It was painful, just felt very stiff and tight. Not right at all. Hmmm, time to have a bit of rest then! Netley splits

I finished parkrun in 23:35 which wasn’t too shabby at all. Christmas parkrun in my view is never one to blast – it’s a good festive run. IMG_2165It was rather muddy though!IMG_2152There was a table of snacks and Bailey shots set up, people dressed up and Christmas music. It was good fun.

IMG_2171Thanks Beth for the photo!

My friend Nick, who is part of the set-up crew, came first (he’s very speedy) and we joked that he’d gotten “Christmas number one”. Hilariously he replied that it seemed fitting as Ed Sheeran, a fellow ginger, had also gotten the Christmas number one. Hehe.IMG_2161We packed up quickly and I headed off home ready to start Christmas properly! My sister and Mike were already there so I quickly got showered and sorted ready to open presents with everyone. We’re the type of family who opens presents first. It’s all very chaotic and crazy with wrapping paper everywhere, my mum offering cups of tea or bucks fizz, a strong delicious smell of turkey, the dogs trying to eat everything and everyone trying to get to grips with who’s got what from whom. I love Christmas with my family and wouldn’t change a thing!

To add to the stress my dad and I thought it would be a great idea to make a pudding this year. As both him and my mum are still doing Slimming World (and doing very well!) he decided the Slimming World Chocolate Log would be perfect (amongst all the other puddings of course). So we quickly got to work on that. Obviously though, as is Apple Family standard, we were missing self-raising flour (why on earth would you check these things beforehand right?). Luckily we had normal flour and baking powder so we went with that!

And as usual we didn’t read the instructions properly to realise that once it comes out of the oven you need to roll it and then let it cool. Well, we just left it to cool flat. IMG_2173So when it came to adding the filling and trying to roll it stone cold…well, it didn’t quite work.IMG_2174That said, it did hold its shape and actually tasted very nice! Not really my sort of thing it must be said as I’m not a huge fan of chocolate and fruit together but it was a nice addition to the other puddings I had 😉Christmas dinnerWe had a prawn starter (basically just prawns with either a sweet chili dip or a Marie Rose dip, delicious!), followed by turkey with all the trimmings and then a slice of the chocolate log… and maybe some trifle and lemon tart as well 😉

Then we played an awesome but very simple game called Bottle Top.IMG_2195You basically have to stack wooden coins on top of a bottle. The aim is to lose all your coins and not knock any coins off, but you can’t go higher than nine levels. It’s very tense!

The rest of the day was spent enjoying time with the family, playing with my puzzle (I’m fully addicted and almost finished my LOTR-themed puzzle) and eating more food. I had a lovely evening snack of Christmas cake (from Betty’s tea shop in Yorkshire!) and stollen.IMG_2201Heavenly! We did manage our annual Christmas walk down the beach with the dogs but it was SO windy and wild it was very much “heads down, go go go” kind of walk. Only a handful of other dog walkers seemed to brave the weather like us. It was good to get out though and the dogs needed the run.

A successful Christmas indeed.

How was your Christmas?

What did you have for Christmas dinner?

What are your family traditions?