Orlando food recap and how much weight I gained

Now if you’re anything like me, it’s all about the food on holiday. And when it comes to holiday recaps, I want to know ALL about it. So here we go. Get ready to feel a little bit hungry 😉

I’ll also preface this with saying that I pretty much ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and lots of it. I wanted to include my weight into this post because I want to reassure people that it is completely NORMAL to gain weight on holiday. You’re eating completely different foods and you’re on holiday so there’s lots of treats and eating out.

During a normal week I’ll probably eat out once or twice (usually with pudding). I’ll eat treats through the week but in general I’m quite healthy and routine-based in what I eat Monday to Friday. I like what I eat and I don’t restrict myself any food but in general, yes, I eat fairly healthily.

So going to Orlando and eating everything was bound to have an effect. And I was fully aware of this and quite happy with that eventual outcome. I love food and I didn’t want to come home with any regrets about what I DIDN’T eat, not about what I did eat. Food is a big part of what I love and how I like to spend time with people (as it is for Kate & Jamie who I went with) and it was a major part of why the holiday was AMAZING. And on that note…

Starting with the absolute breakfast must for me before a holiday, the usual fry-up affair at the airport.Gatwick South doesn’t have a great amount of choice (and no Jamie’s Italian, which I think does the best fry-up) but we had a fantastic meal at Grain Store Café & Bar. Though I dislike the baked bean contamination going on!

Anyway, onto actual Orlando food. The first night (being five hours ahead it was like ridiculous o’clock in the morning UK time) we arrived at the hotel from the airport and headed to our respective rooms. I promptly ordered room service as it was dinner time in Orlando and I find it best to get into the swing of the time zone I’m in. Annnnd I was hungry so why not!Not the greatest photo but basically I had a chicken burger with chips though I was a bit disappointed as I really wanted was some overly fried crispy fries. And a huge pickle. God I love America with their love for pickles. And I ate it in my PJs in bed watching TV. BLISS.

One of our first proper meals was at Longhorn Steakhouse. I’m not usually a huge steak lover – though I do enjoy them. I wouldn’t have picked this restaurant myself but Kate and Jay raved about it and I was very relaxed this holiday about where and what we were going to eat that I went with their better judgement. I’m so glad I did!I ordered a fillet steak (rare) with a sweet potato. The sweet potato weirdly came with cinnamon sugar butter which I asked for on the side because it sounded wrong to have it on the potato. I didn’t touch it…just weird. The bread at Longhorn was TO DIE FOR as well. Now I’m fairly ambivalent about bread, but this bread was warm and delicious. So a very simple but a very tasty meal.

We followed this with a trip to Menchies for some fro-yo and I went a bit crazy on the toppings (all the animal cookies, the brownie bites, the cookie dough chunks, the turtle chocolate caramel things). So good.

Another top meal was at a Mexican restaurant called Chuy’s which we went to the last time we went to Orlando together. I had chicken fajitas and it came with all the trimmings.At first I thought I’d need to ask for more tortillas it only came with three. But after piling each one with so much filling that they almost exploded, I really didn’t need anymore! I didn’t need my rice either. The guacamole, sour cream, salsa, cheese, tortillas and chicken with onion and peppers were enough!

We then popped into Coldstone Creamery. Jay and Kate had a crazy ice cream concoction but I went for a candy apple because, well, see blog name.I had a rocky road one and it was covered with caramel, chocolate, nuts and marshmallow. Ahh it was so good. I’m not a huge ice cream fan so the apple was always the way forward for me.

After doing Busche Gardens one day we had a late lunch/early dinner at a lovely little Italian pizza place called Giovanni’s. Again, this is one we’ve been to before and we all loved it. I shared chicken wings with Jamie and had a gyro salad with pita bread. The chicken wings. Good God. They were amazing. Possibly the best of the holiday? It’s hard to say. You know me, I love chicken wings and would eat them every day if I could (I did when I went to Boston) so this is high praise indeed. Buffalo sauce and blue cheese dip. I can’t even.We followed this by going to the ice cream parlour next door and I had seven bars flavour and birthday cake flavour. The seven bars flavour is basically seven different chocolate bars within the ice cream – it literally rocked my world. The birthday cake (which was underneath) sadly didn’t compare but was still good.

And something I always get when I go to Orlando… the turkey leg. It’s one of my favourite things. It brings out the true carnivore in me. And why my friends call me a hyena. When we went to Disney we decided to have a more ‘snacky lunch’ as we were going to Chuy’s that evening (see above).I sniffed out where the turkey legs were and settled myself on a bench with the above view while Kate and Jamie headed off to find what they wanted for lunch. Kate, being the pudding pro, went for an ice cream sandwich while Jamie had a hot dog. They had to wait a bit in a queue so I sat on my own started munching away. Jamie said from a distance it looked like I hadn’t been fed for a week and had finally been shown food… smallish girl with giant turkey leg eating like a hyena. I was in my own little happy world, what can I say!What we tended to do is if we were planning a big lunch, then we’d skip breakfast. I would get a fruit salad and a coffee from the Hard Rock Hotel mini-shop and that would tide me over until lunch. We usually also timed this with the previous night having had a huge dinner so I didn’t really wake up that hungry. So most days we’d have one really big main meal (with pudding) and probably snacks either side. I will say though on the days we didn’t have breakfast by midday I was SO ready to eat. But then so were Kate and Jay. We had very similar stomach clocks so this worked nicely. They’re very food-focused so I knew I’d never be without 😉

One of my favourite restaurants we went to (which we went to twice as it was just so good) was a restaurant about 30 minutes from the tourist area called 4 Rivers Smokehouse.Now I know I eat a lot of ribs, but honestly this was PHENOMENAL. I had a full rack of St. Louis ribs (my favourite style of ribs) and it rocked my world a million times over (OK how often will I use this phrase??). I got two chicken wings on the side because as part of the meal you got a load of sides with it (like cornbread, BBQ beans and Mac & Cheese, Southern greens…things like that) but I just wanted the biscuit and wings. The biscuit was ridiculously soft and delicious. The ribs…so good. If you ever go to Orlando, look this place up. Seriously.

We also went to Cheesecake Factory one day. We don’t really have anything similar to this in the UK. The menu is ridiculous. PAGES upon pages of options. Basically we went purely for the cheesecake. I shared some chicken wings with Kate (see, addicted) and then had a chicken and guacamole salad (so much avocado…) followed by the white chocolate macadamia nut cheesecake (not as good as the Ultimate Red Velvet though).For a giggle I worked out how many calories I ate in this mealThat’s pretty insane, right?? I have honestly never felt so full in my life. Yes I ate all of it. While I was eating the cheesecake I was thinking, “I’m a bit full but I’m OK” and then suddenly within the last bite of it I hit the fullest I’ve ever been. We were all stuffed. I literally needed to lie down and curl up in the fetal position. I think in my future full scale in life that Cheesecake Factory moment will be right at the top.

Another day when I literally ate more than I really should have was one of the best meals of my life. MY ENTIRE LIFE. This is a bold, bold statement I know. I went to Orlando knowing I wanted this meal after seeing a YouTuber eating it. This was brunch after the Orlando parkrun (another post to come) at Hash House A Go Go.Fried chicken on BACON-FILLED waffles covered with fried leeks (random but it worked) and hot maple reduction. It was ENORMOUS. But I was in food heaven. I dream about this meal even now.Best meal of the holiday. Best meal of my life. I pretty much ate it all bar maybe one of the waffles and the two random cherry tomatoes they served it with (weird). Jay ate those.It said it came with eggs but I honestly can’t remember eggs being in there. Anyway I felt ridiculously full. We ate about 9.30am? I didn’t eat again (absolutely nothing – not even coffee) until after 7pm (and that was a salad). What do you do after you’ve eaten a ridiculous big meal and feel a bit ill? Go to SeaWorld and do the roller coasters. Ooof. Especially when we went on Manta which holds you horizontal and we got held there at the end for a good 5 minutes as they took ages boarding the next people. I’ve never been sick on a ride but honestly I was THIS close. Stupid, stupid idea.

And the best pudding of the holiday? The chocolate brownie milkshake I got from the new City Walk restaurant, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. After *cough* chicken wings for starters (with an insanely good chocolate ale sauce) and a chicken salad, I had the best milkshake (and pudding) of the holiday.The brownie milkshake came with chocolate ice cream as the base of the milkshake but I changed to vanilla as I thought it would be a bit too chocolatey. They blend up a brownie in there too so this was a very wise choice. I was in heaven. I dipped the brownie in the milkshake and just floated away to heaven. Kate got the peanut butter one (far right) and Jamie got the Dulche Leche (middle). We all agreed it was AMAZING. My one regret of the holiday is not going back for the red velvet milkshake (they put a red velvet cupcake on top). But a reason to go back…

Other puddings worthy of a shout-out were the slices of red velvet and carrot cake at the bakery in 4 Rivers Smokehouse (can that place get any better?).Kate and I shared the slices as we couldn’t make our minds up. It worked out nicely as I found I preferred the carrot cake and she preferred the red velvet.

And then another candy apple that I got to choose the toppings for in the Disney Springs candy shop.It was a caramel base, a white chocolate covering, Butterfingers and Graham Cracker sprinkled all over and then a dark chocolate drizzle. Oh it was so good. But I felt incredibly sick that evening. Way too much sugar.

This obviously isn’t everything I ate on holiday, but it’s the real highlights. And the reason why I gained half a stone (7lbs)! I weighed myself before going on holiday and then after making a prediction with Kate and Jamie about how much I’d have put on, I weighed myself as soon as I got back from the airport. Half a stone! I mean to be honest I’m surprised I didn’t put more on but we did walk over 25,000 steps a day, I did lots of running and a few gym visits so really I came out quite well I think. I’m quite proud of myself 😉

But having weighed myself today (a week and a half later) I’m pretty much back to my pre-holiday weight. I DID NOT go on a ridiculous starvation diet. I just went back to my usual eating, running and gym visits (no more than usual). Honestly, I didn’t feel guilty or awful about what I ate or how much weight I put on. I knew when I got home things would readjust back. And they have done. I mean if I’m honest, I was craving my normal food and healthier ways of eating when I got back so it wasn’t that hard. Though I miss that milkshake and chicken and waffles every day. EVERY DAY.

So there we go. Go on holiday, eat all the foods, relax and think about the memories you make not the calories you’re eating!

Do you eat lots of holiday?

Best meal of your life?

What’s your favourite pudding you’ve ever had?

Chepstow Stampede 10k (Obstacle Mud Run) and foodie fun

I’ve never done a proper obstacle mud race before and honestly I was fairly nervous. I had signed up to run the Chepstow Stampede 10k with my friends, Kate and Jamie, a while ago and now it was suddenly here.

I drove to Bristol to stay with them on Friday night. Because I’m such an intelligent savvy pro at life (*cough*) I winged it with their address in my sat nav with what I thought it was and then found out later I was actually going to the wrong place. In all fairness I was very close with the address; it was in Bristol at least. I haven’t driven to their house in the dark before is my excuse… It just set me back 15 minutes, whoops. Lesson learnt once again never to trust my own (questionable) intelligence in anything.

We had a delicious chicken salad for dinner. Who even are these friends anymore?? They would laugh at me for eating salad in America and now they’re completely converted! They’re like new people. And then we had an early night ready to get up the next morning to drive to Chepstow. We also picked up Kate’s friend, Katherine, en route who I’d met when we’d all done parkrun together a few times a few months ago.

chepstow-stampedeRandom guy in the right photo at the bib pick-up tent…

It was really fun going to the race and picking up our bibs because the three of them had never done a race before. What was a fairly normal and mundane process for me was new and exciting to Kate, Jamie and Katherine. They’d never had a bib number before, had the usual struggles and gripes about where to pin it and getting it straight… it was just really refreshing to go through the process with them (without sounding ridiculously patronising – we were all new to this once after all!).img_6040That said, I was actually really nervous about this race as it was something I’ve never really done before. I’ve done obstacle courses before but never an actual race. I was really glad it wasn’t raining, though it was very chilly. We’d agreed to run it as a team and help each other where needed. Right, let’s do this.img_6041The race started off on road at the Chepstow Racecourse and on a sharp downhill. The running for me was generally fairly easy as I’m a bit faster normally to the others but it was nice to run with them. We didn’t know what to expect in terms of obstacles but we did know at some point we’d be getting wet, so that weighed heavily on all our minds as the temperature was far from ideal.

The first obstacle was climbing over a wooden wall thing. It had very narrow ‘steps’ to use but it was really slippy. I ambitious threw myself at it and slipped almost immediately. More time and care required! It was quite high up but I just didn’t look down and got over it, literally. Kate was very cautious and nervous because she hates heights but she bossed it like a pro!

The first mile flew by. It was crazy how quickly it was going, despite having to wait a good few times for obstacles as there gets to be a bit of a build up while you wait for people. I don’t have a huge amount of obstacle racing experience but I think if you’re expecting to get really good times it will be hard because, from speaking to other people who’ve done similar races, you usually do have to wait a bit. But you can use that time to see (and judge!) other people’s strategies for getting over…and what not to do!

There were lots of obstacles in each mile, things like hay bales to climb over, tunnels to wriggle through, more walls to get over and tires to climb through – things like that basically. Nothing too difficult but also not easy per se, especially after you’ve been running. One of my favourites was climbing up a steep muddy wall using a rope. That was good fun. For each obstacle you didn’t have to do it and normally there was an easier option to choose from as well.

On the last mile there was the dreaded full body submerging into cold muddy water. There were a load of logs held above a stretch of water and you had to crawl under them, your head just above the water, to get through. It was FREEZING. But you just got in there and got it done. The more you think about it the worse it’ll be.

I got out the other side in shock of just how cold it was. It was that weird feeling that I knew I was cold but I hadn’t registered it yet as my body numb. It was only after we continued to run and the wind whipped at us that we really felt it. But we survived! We had to run up that bastard hill that we ran down at the start and crossed the finish line holding hands feeling like warriors.10k-stampedeWe did it in 1:44:33. We were aiming for sub 2 hours so that was perfect. Actually we think it would have been closer to 1.5 hours had we not had to wait so much (1.5 hours was our A Goal ;-)). It was such a fun race. It didn’t feel like any race I’ve done before. I certainly wouldn’t do it on my own – I think the appeal of these races are that you do them with friends and help each other, rather than try and get a speedy time. I didn’t care that I was running (and walking at times) a lot slower than I normally would. It was just such a fun experience.img_6045You weren’t just getting through the miles: you never knew what was coming round the corner, what massive hill would turn up next or crazy obstacle you’d have to get past. The race flew by! I fully recommend it – and for someone who hates being cold and wet, that is good praise indeed! I’m grateful it wasn’t raining though as the course had the potential to get very muddy so we weren’t quite as dirty as we could have been!img_6051

Just a few tips that I thought I’d share for an obstacle/mud run:

  • Don’t go with a time ambition.
  • Wear trail shoes that you don’t really care about.
  • Wear running clothes you’re not bothered about ruining but equally if you’re doing the race in colder temperatures, wear long sleeves and leggings but nothing that if it gets wet will really weigh you down.
  • Possibly wear gloves with grips – I found my hands got very cold and torn around a bit on the obstacles.
  • Bring a towel and a spare set of clothes.

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  • Bring bin bags to either sit on in the car or put your clothes into afterwards.
  • Help anyone and everyone; there’s such a camaraderie feeling between everyone, whether you know them or not.

img_6054After we’d all had lovely hot showers we headed out for the real prize: FOOD. We went to Spitfire in Bristol which I’ve been to before. Katherine ordered a steak but the rest of us ordered the St. Louis ribs. When I ordered the waiter said, “This is usually shared between two people – it’s quite a lot of food” and Kate was like, “you don’t know Jamie and Anna”. We ordered some chicken wings to share as well. I won’t lie, our stomachs were doing the talking.img_6056We were all in heaven. The ribs were delicious. Up there with the best. The chicken wings were good too.img_6063Jamie and me had no issues polishing off our ribs, though we were defeated by the wings.

Despite being very full we decided to head to a gelato cafe for some pudding. Ooof. I decided to not go quite as decadent as I could have been and had three scoops: Mint Aero, Toffee Crisp and Malteaser. Delicious!img_6065

Then I needed a nap…but I had to drive home. It was a fantastic weekend of the best kind: running and food 😉

What’s your favourite ice cream flavours?

What would be your worst obstacle?

Have you ever done a mud race before?

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?

Birthday weekend–part 1

And just like that I’m another year older… I turned 28 yesterday. I’d like to think that I’m wiser and have it all figured out but I absolutely don’t. But I’m happy and enjoying life so I’ll take that!

For the Saturday I had a few of my university friends down. Kate and Jamie (I went on holiday last year with them to Orlando) came down earlier so they could join me at parkrun. Now this is a BIG DEAL. This is the couple who laughed at me for going to parkrun when we were on holiday together. They were the least likely out of all my non-running friends to want to do parkrun. But, major kudos to them, they’ve started running and eating better in order to lose a bit of weight and get a bit more healthy. Jamie has lost FIVE STONE and Kate has lost (I think) over two stone. They’ve both also been doing the Couch to 5K programme and Kate had timed it perfectly as to use parkrun for my birthday weekend as her target.

They got to mine just before 8am and we headed down to Lee-On-Solent parkrun. Ordinarily I do Netley but Kate wanted a nice flat course and my dad was going to do Lee as well as my friend, Mat, who was down from Cheltenham for the week so it made sense.

IMG_2215Kate, Jamie, me and Mat

It was a beautifully sunny day. I was a bit worried about my hamstring but I’d done a quick tester run when I walked Alfie in the morning and it held up OK. Not perfect but alright.

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I’d planned to take the run nice and slowly and stop if at any point it became bad.

IMG_2216My dad rocking the England shirt

It was quite amusing to see Jamie and Kate’s reaction to parkrun. They tend to run very early in the morning and never with other people. They genuinely thought they’d be about 12 people at parkrun. Jamie said he was shocked that one minute there were a couple of people and then the next there were hundreds. They were literally taken aback by the amount of lycra and colour about.

The start was a little bit hectic I must admit. There was over 300 people and we were all bunched together. It involved a lot of negotiating around people and trying not to trip over anyone else or be tripped up. But eventually it evened out and there was enough space.

I found a nice easy rhythm. I wasn’t pushing it or feeling out of breath and the hamstring felt OK. I was surprised to see I was running around 8 minute miles.

FullSizeRenderPhoto credit: Eileen Bartlett

Lee’s a good course as you can see runners ahead and behind so I could cheer people on and spot people I knew.

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I’d say the hamstring felt 80% OK. It niggled slightly towards the end but there was no pain, just felt uncomfortable. It just annoys me though as it doesn’t make for a great run as I’m constantly thinking about it and not wanting to push myself to go fast because I don’t want to annoy it. But least it was better than it has been! I finished in 24:15 which felt nice and comfortable.

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Mat had already finished in a great time of 20:50 so we walked together to walk my dad in. He was power walking the course and desperate to beat his last time of 51:12. He was finding it tough but the tail runner was apparently really good at keeping him going.

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Towards the end, he picked up speed, overtook another guy and sprinted to the finish. Everyone cheered him in and it was lovely.

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And he completed it in 50:16 so almost a minute off his time! He was made up Smile Kate squeaked under her goal of sub-35 by getting 34:57 and Jamie got 33:58. The absolute best part was hearing how much they loved it. Kate and Jamie are now full-on parkrun converts. On the way home they were already planning their next one (depressingly their local one was Little Stoke so now their nearest one is about 20 minutes away). Jamie was already commenting how he felt he could run further when he finished as well. YES!!! Converting my non-running friends one person at a time Winking smile

We got back to mine, showered and then my friend Shell and her fiancé, Rob, showed up to join the fun. Again, hearing them tell Rob and Shell how good parkrun was just made my day. A year ago there was nothing I could say that would persuade them that running could be enjoyable. People have to find out for themselves.

I had booked my latest favourite restaurant for lunch and we were all pretty excited. After catching up and walking Alfie and Kate’s pug, Doug, we headed to Sadlers in Southampton.

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As I’ve mentioned before, Sadlers is THE restaurant for meat (though they also have a strong vegetarian section of the menu too). The last time I went was INCREDIBLE. My friends love BBQ food too so it made sense to go here. I decided to go for the ribs rather than the platter this time as, though the platter is amazing, I was really craving ribs. And they did not disappoint.

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HUGE chunks of meaty ribs on top of chips, salad, coleslaw and cornbread. I didn’t even touch the chips. There was just too much meat (which, by the way, is not an issue).

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So tasty. Shell and Rob also went with the ribs and Jamie and Kate shared the platter.

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Ridiculously (and foolishly) Shell, Rob and I ordered sides as well. Shell and Rob went for some pulled pork and I went for some chicken wings and we ordered the bourbon BBQ sauce to go alongside. (Greed took over sanity here as you can probably tell…).

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Yeah I didn’t even touch those wings. There was just far too much going on my plate. And, amazingly for me, I couldn’t finish the ribs. I was beaten! Everyone was. Happily Kate and Jamie said I could take their leftovers home so I took a swan of shame back with me.

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Needless to say my freezer is now joyfully stocked with some smoked turkey, gammon, wings, hot link sausages and pulled pork. Happy days!

As we sat there afterwards chatting and basically recovering from the meal, the waitress appeared with a cake with lit candles and they all started singing happy birthday to me. It was such a surprise and so lovely!

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To be honest, I think the last thing we all wanted was a slice of chocolate cake. But you gotta take one for the team right?? Winking smile

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The chocolate cupcakes on top were filled with delicious buttercream. We were literally DONE after having a slice.

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We spent a long time at my flat just laying around chatting and digesting. We probably could have napped! It was such a great day. And to top it off they got me some super cool Superdry workout gear.

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Because what else would you buy me?? So, an absolutely perfect Saturday.

What is your perfect way to spend your birthday?

Have you converted any non-runners to runners?

What’s your perfect birthday gift?

Random Life

Hello lovely people! I was going to do a Rants and a Raves post but decided instead my thoughts were more random and less ranty or ravy-specific. So here we go…

Spotted: one lone lunchbox on top of a car in my office car park.

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I would be really annoyed if this was me (food = my life). I decided to put the lunchbox out of its misery (though I wouldn’t mind lying/sitting on top of a car all day in the sun instead of work if I’m honest…with a book perhaps) and take it to reception so they could email round. The owner had realised he’d left it behind however and met me halfway. Apparently his work colleagues had told him about it – why didn’t they bring it in for him!?

Frozen custard: I’d only heard about frozen custard when I was in the States and you could buy it from a fast food place like ice cream. I never actually tried it though. Anyone had it?

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But anyway, there it sits in the Sainsbury’s freezer in the UK! I was very tempted to buy it it must be said but I managed to resist. Portion control and ice cream in my freezer is tricky Winking smile

Home decor: So this is my TV unit thing that sits beneath my TV which is attached the wall in my flat.IMG_9665

I just don’t know what to put on it though as it looks a bit bare! When I bought the unit I thought the TV was going on it but then I found I could put the TV on the wall which was actually better for where the sofa was going. So now I have this area of space and it feels like I should put something there…like photo frames or potpourri. Can anyone suggest anything? I’m so terrible with stuff like this!

If I were a dinosaur I’d be a T-Rex: If you’re a regular reader of the blog or you know me in real life then you know I’m fairly carnivorous. I could easily give up bread, potatoes, rice etc. But I would really struggle to give up meat. Yes I could get protein from more environmentally sustainable ways but I love it too much.

Instead I try and buy as much organic and free range or outdoor reared meat as possible. As that’s obviously a lot more expensive I’ve found a good trick is looking in the section of the meat aisle where meat is just about to go off and so is marked down in price. I’ll only ever buy free range chicken and it’s at least 1/3 of the price cheaper getting it there. I then freeze it so I have no worries about it being needed to be eaten straight away.

Anyway, last weekend my fellow meat-loving friends, Louise and Tom (and their toddler, Jake), met up for a Sunday meat fest. Instead of going out to Sadlers (ahh that epic meal…) which would have been tricky for them with childcare we decided to recreate it at home. I brought buffalo chicken wings, a HUGE rack of St. Louis-style ribs and salad (#balance). They provided sausages, pulled pork, lemon and herb chicken thighs, BBQ spare ribs and chips.

IMG_1474The chips were buries underneath all the protein

It was amaaaaazing. Clearly far too much for us (yes, even for me) but delicious nonetheless. I mean look at that rib:

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Jake had some cut up sausages and bread and seemed quite happy. It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon with friends.

Family time: For my mum’s birthday we went to Brighton at the weekend for a daytrip. We went by train which, for my family, was quite novel. We normally drive everywhere but we decided to save the hassle of parking.

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The weather wasn’t great but we weren’t going there for the beach. We wanted to do a spot of shopping and have a nice meal.

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We hadn’t realised it was the Brighton Fringe Festival which explained why it was bustling with people and things going on. Though it was a shame about the weather the atmosphere made up for it. For lunch we decided on Browns. I had done some research beforehand to find some nice restaurants but, in true style of my parents, they made no decisions before rocking up to Brighton and then floundering around a bit trying to find somewhere suitable (*sighs*). Also, a few of the places I suggested probably weren’t what my parents would have wanted anyway…But I have a lovely friend in Brighton that I might be able to persuade to take me (especially to any of the cool sounding vegetarian restaurants.! Yes, I can eat a non-meat based meal occasionally!).

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Anyway Browns was lovely. Though the waiter was ridiculously incompetent. He took forever doing anything. We ordered drinks and saw them sat at the bar for a good 10 minutes before he brought them over, and even then he brought my dad the wrong drink (but he took it anyway for fear that he might die of thirst by waiting for the correct one). In the end though we came out well because he missed off our last drinks order which included a glass of champagne for my mum. The food, however, was delicious.

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I shared this platter with my dad which included calamari, chicken lolly pops, fish pâté, hummus and prawn cocktail. For my main I had a Caesar salad (so predictable) and for pudding I had a brownie. Not my favourite because it was so rich but nice with honeycomb ice cream.

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We then walked around the Lanes and did some shopping. This obviously included the Choccywoccydoodah Shop.

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My dad, a self-confessed chocolate addict, said it was torture as he wanted everything. But he’s trying to be good (and everything was rather expensive – though very good quality!). A good time was had! My dad was perilously close to falling asleep on the train and all our phones had died by this point – what on Earth would we do!? Make actual conversation with each other?? Winking smile Like when I was younger, we played some train journey games like the “yes and no” game where you have to guess what the other person is (literally anything, person, object, place) by them just answering yes or no. I felt like a kid again!

Do you play any games on long journeys?

Do your friends have similar eating tastes to you?

Have you ever been to Brighton?