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?

All the running and all the food

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How was your weekend?

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

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

The Botanist – Reading

When you love food as much as I do, getting invited to a restaurant launch is probably up there with a dream evening. A new restaurant has just opened in Reading, called The Botanist.

The Botanist is a chain but with only a few locations. I first heard about and went to The Botanist in Chester after the Chester Marathon. I was blown away by the look of the restaurant interior Рso pretty and adhering to its botanical-theme.  So I was curious to see what the one in Reading would be like.

I invited my friend, George, to join me as he lives in Reading and¬†is a fellow lover of food. It was a Thursday night which was somewhat of a bummer but hey I’m not complaining! We headed there straight from work, hungry and ready to go. Being the keeners we are, we arrived ten minutes too early so decided to ‘waste some time’ in a delightful Turkish cafe down the road. I had a freddo cappuccino which rocked.

Anyway, back to The Botanist. On arrival we were offered Prosecco or beer. We went for a glass of bubbly and enquired about what the event would entail.Apparently lots of free drink (an open bar, anything you want) and then canapes at 7.30pm. I was somewhat disappointed that the food would “just” be canapes (check out the menu, so many tempting options!) and seemed so far away. But hey we rolled with it and decided to do a lap of the restaurant to check the scene.

The restaurant is so beautifully decorated. I just love how they keep to the theme! Flower pots, plants, flowers…so pretty.It was filling out quickly with lots of people so we decided to head to the outside area and chill with our bubbly. The restaurant has a small but lovely outside area which was delightful to enjoy in the evening sunshine.We also noticed lots of cool looking cocktails being handed out. Some of which were in plant pots!! The Botanist is well known for it’s very cool cocktails, again all botanically themed.The barmen and ladies were lovely and friendly and, as you can see very happy to have their photo taken. Anyway, sadly as I was driving I couldn’t partake in much drinking but had insane amounts of Diet Coke instead…love that stuff.George and I grabbed one of the above cocktails after a bunch were made. I tried a sip (divine, so tasty!) and gave the rest to George. Lucky guy, he lived just down the round.We were sad not to be able to try the plant pot cocktails but these were very tasty.

And then finally we saw canapes being brought out. By this point, George and I were VERY hungry. The waitresses (who were working very hard indeed that night! And were super friendly and helpful) were bringing out these boards of canapes and putting them on tables. We didn’t have a table and they were walking straight past us. Cunning work needed to be done.

I saw a waitress with a board and asked her if I could have one “for our table”. She gladly handed one over, yesss! George and I quickly found an edge of a table to perch¬†it on and like locusts attacked. The canapes were DELICIOUS.

And from then we seemed to score big time on the canape front. After three more boards we decided to head outside again for some fresh air as it was quite busy inside. We luckily found a table and I chilled with my Diet Coke while George sipped a beer. And then a waitress came over and gave us another board. Amazing.We rated our favourites (now serious canape connoisseurs). The chicken lolly pop was the best, hands down. Followed by the pork belly skewer (neither shown in this pic annoyingly). The quails egg Scotch egg rocked our world too. A fellow patron came over and asked to have one of our Scotch eggs as she’d seen them and hadn’t been able to try one yet. George and I looked at each other, both clearly trying to think of a polite way to say no (yes, even though this was our fifth board…), when another board passed by and we told her to grab it. Whew! Crisis averted ūüėČ

Basically the food was amazing and worth the wait. I’ve never been so full on canapes before in my life! It was great being there with George who was as food-centric as me. Then we headed back into the restaurant and enjoyed the live music and the free drinks (well, Diet Coke for me).The music, the food, the drinks…all made for a fantastic evening. I’ll definitely be finding myself in Reading again soon to go back for a proper meal. I’m really pleased this one has¬†opened up closer to me as I was sad when I realised there were none nearby after I had such a great meal in Chester.

We eventually left, goodie bags in tow, and headed for a some pudding at a local ice cream parlour. It ended the evening perfectly.Cookie dough ice cream and fudge brownie. Delightful!

Have you ever been to The Botanist?

What’s your favourite canape?

What’s your favourite cocktail?

**Full Disclaimer: I was invited to the opening of The Botanist in Reading in exchange of a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

A long run, a not-so-raunchy movie and feeling blue

The weekend just gone was fairly jam-packed. I was off to Reading on Saturday morning to meet my university friends and one of those friends, Charlotte, from Brighton caught the train to stay over Friday night, so we could drive together.

It was nice to drive with someone else to minimise any navigational issues. I’ve driven to Reading many times (I had to work there for six weeks on a customer site for my current job in Basingstoke). But that was a few years ago and well, let’s be honest, it’s me. Anything could happen. This did mean of course we were late by about ten minutes, which my other friends knew was down to me and not Charlotte. I’m the queen of leaving no minute spare and believing everything will go smoothly.

Anyway, rewinding to Friday night. We had a delicious salmon and butternut squash meal. She’s a vegetarian and it was a meal that we used to share back at university the night before an exam (though with the less expensive tuna) . Not sure why, maybe because it was easy and we believed the nutritiousness of the meal and fish would add to our brain power (though tinned tuna doesn’t contain any omega 3…). Happy to report we both got a First in our Psychology degree ūüėČ Basically you halve a butternut squash, bake it, then add a tomato, fish and vegetable mix on top. Standard easy cheap student eats.

We then watched Fifty Shades of Grey. Both of us knew it would be rubbish and we’d read the books and found them fairly rubbish too, but it was such a girlie, easy film and we could talk our way through it anyway. It was terrible but in a very amusing way. And somewhat cringy with just how cheesy it was. Don’t think I’ll be seeing the next one!

The next morning I got up before 7am to get in a six mile run (my “long” run for the week).¬†

It went fairly well. Not “fist pump the sky” amazing, but relatively OK. After showering, having breakfast and grabbing a Starbucks for the road, we were on our way (*cough* about ten minutes late…).

Seeing my friends was, as always, lovely. One of them is at the early stages of pregnancy which is just crazy. I mean, I know pregnancy happens but it’s just so bizarre seeing one of your close friends with a mini bump growing an actual baby. Like an actual adult. I don’t feel like we are adults though yet. Well, I’m certainly not!

We had a lovely meal at Las Iguanas. Shockingly I went for something different. I’d been craving, fajitas¬†and I do love an assembly job meal ūüėČ

It was very tasty – and came with sour cream, guacamole and salsa on the side. The chicken and pepper mix was a bit over-oily, but it still tasted really good and, to be honest, dipping my tortilla in the oily sauce might have happened a few times. I fully enjoyed it. No puddings but I was fairly content with my meal. And I had a couple of apples in my bag soo…

Happily I also managed to pick up a couple of bargains in the sale. I got a beautiful soft leather jacket down from ¬£75 to ¬£35 (!) and an ¬£8 cardigan from Oasis. I’m very pleased. I literally went out with the hope to find a casual jacket and it was the first one I saw.

I drove back from Reading on my own (Charlotte headed back on the train) and then quickly wolfed down some dinner before getting myself ready for my next social outing. My friend, Ant, has just turned 30 and was having a sci-fi themed party at his and his wife’s house. It sounds like a fairly easy fancy dress, right? For a guy maybe, but there isn’t a huge amount of choice when it comes to female outfits. The obvious is Princess Leia. But I didn’t think it in the best of taste and after Googling a bit I found a great outfit. It was about ¬£27 but it came with lots of accessories and I could see myself wearing it to a movie-themed parkrun or race at some point… ¬†an investment!It came with an arm gauntlet, necklaces, a feather necklace and the ‘loin cloth’ thing came attached to the blue suit. I added the flipflops, some extra bracelets, blue face paint (a bargain from Amazon) and plaited a few bits of my hair.Not too shabby, eh! I love fancy dress so for me this was great. Though I did feel somewhat naked. Compared to my friend, Sarah, who was dressed up as a unicorn in a very fluffy and huge (self-made!) outfit. But mine was an ideal choice for any running in the future…

The party was good fun. We played lots of board games, ate lots and just generally had a laugh.Our parties are far more low-key now we’re older but we still love a bit of fancy dress. There was an ewok, a storm trooper, terminator robot, Aragorn from LoTR (strictly speaking I’d say this is fantasy not sci-fi…)¬†and Arthur Dent from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (for my shame I was the only one who got the reference…). There was a random nun and Jesus Christ but only because they didn’t have a sci-fi outfit and wanted to dress up. In *some* circles JC might be seen as sci-fi I suppose…

It was a good evening and I was thankful for my friend lending me some baby oil to remove my face paint (the blue had stained my hands and didn’t seem to come off with just soap and water). It came off nice and easily with the oil. Though half way through the removal I did resemble a zombie – noted for another fancy dress option! ūüėČ

I was quite thankful for this as I was meeting a friend the next morning for coffee and I really didn’t want a blue face!

Have you ever used face paint for fancy dress?

What would you go as for a sci-fi themed fancy dress?

Are you good with travelling to different places on your own?