All the food and the Solent Half Marathon

Aside from all the packing madness, last weekend was really fun. Anything involving seeing good friends, eating ribs and having a solid race and long run is a big tick in my book!

So after parkrun on Saturday morning (and more packing), I met up with a good friend of mine for a catch-up and some tasty food. I told her to bring her appetite as the place we were going was not for tiny stomachs. I picked her up from the Southampton Central train station (as she was coming from Basingstoke) and we headed to Sadlers. If you’re ever in Southampton and you’re a meat-loving fan, you really must check this place out. Actually to be fair, they do a fantastic vegetarian menu as well – lots of options!I always mean to try new things but then I know how good the ribs are at Sadlers and can’t help but stick with them. They’re honestly some of the best ribs I’ve ever had. They had two options: medium (800g) or large (1.5kg). I asked the advice of the waiter (even though I knew what I’d go for regardless) and when I told him I was a “whole chicken Nando’s kinda girl” he agreed that ordering the large would be best. And I’m so glad I did (though I am slightly wondering if they were indeed 1.5kg worth of ribs…I remember last time ordering the ribs and really struggling whereas this time I was fine). The cornbread was really good for mopping up the BBQ sauce but the chips got left behind. No room at the inn!

My friend ordered the St. Elmo’s Fire, which was super spicy. She’s literally the spice queen (she’s been known to send plates back when they’ve not been spicy enough and asked for more chili!) and she said it was good.We then decided that pudding was in order. Luckily our pudding of choice was a mile’s walk away, which gave our stomach’s a bit of time to recover. Because we definitely needed to make space for a trip to Sprinkles Gelato! The last time I went to Sprinkles I’d had major food envy as I’d made a poor choice on what to have. this time I knew exactly what to get: a Sticky Situation.
This was chocolate and vanilla gelato mixed with milk and white chocolate buttons, cookie dough and melted milk and white chocolate topped with cream. Oh god it was amazing. But no I didn’t manage to finish it. It was just too much sugar. I started to feel a bit sick as I got to the bottom… big chunks of chocolate and cookie dough sadly remained uneaten (I mourn this now). But it was totally worth it. I’d always prefer being defeated by a pudding than finishing it easily and wanting more (greedy person syndrome).My friend ordered a kind of make-your-own dessert jar which included a random mix of gelato (Pina Collada, raspberry cheesecake and Ferrero Rocher! Everything she fancied basically) and a side of banana. She loved it too. And then we parted ways, full to the brim but having had a lovely afternoon. I was then fully fuelled to tackle more packing and cleaning when I got home. I didn’t need anything else to eat that day for definite!

The next morning I woke up early to head off to the Solent Half Marathon. My plan was to run three miles beforehand and then the half itself to make a total of 16 miles, which would be a good training run for the Bournemouth Marathon in a few weeks. I skipped breakfast as I was still quite full and do most of my long runs fasted anyway (well, as fasted as you can be with having eaten that much the day before) and drove to meet with four other ladies from my club to convoy together to the race. We had a nice turn out for our club and there was a very friendly atmosphere.After collecting our bibs, my friend Kate and I headed out for our pre-race run. She wanted two miles while I wanted three so we ran a mile out and back and then I ran another 0.5 mile out and back to make it up. I could already feel that it was going to be a warm one.

I’ve run the Solent Half Marathon a few years ago so vaguely remembered the course being fairly undulating. As I was just planning on running it as a training run I decided to wear my Aftershokz to listen to a podcast to keep my speed under control and my mind occupied. Basically I was treating it as a long run. It’s funny because this is exactly what I did the last time I ran it too, doing three miles extra. However the marathon I was training for (my first marathon I’d signed up to – the Portsmouth Coastal) I never actually got to as I got injured.The race is fairly low-key and the roads aren’t closed. There were a few spectators but the marshals were super friendly and happy which made up for the quieter parts. We started off and I tried not to get caught up in the beginning surge. I let my running friends zoom ahead while I found a comfortable pace and zoned out.The race goes through some lovely countryside roads and passes through the New Forest so there’s lots of greenery to help take your mind off the boring road (it’s all on road). I was glad to have my headphones, but I was paranoid that people would be judging me or that a marshal would disqualify me. The race rules said that “in ear” headphones would lead to disqualification (and this is a race that did actually disqualify people – I remember when I ran it last time I saw them listed in the results as DQ) but the Aftershokz are out of the ear headphones as they work on bone conduction – and are UK Athletics approved. But I still worried. I hate how people judge people for using headphones, like it’s not proper running or something. But hey ho.At one point I found myself overtaking a guy, only for him to then overtake me and then slow down, so then I’d overtake him again, and he’d overtake again… this happened like three times! It was a little frustrating. I wasn’t increasing my pace at all.It was a very warm race so I made sure to stop at each drinks station (there were only three as it was a smaller race) and walked with my water to ensure I drank it all rather than throwing it down myself. I took a few photos – especially when we got past the coast as it was very pretty.I decided that at mile 10 I’d switch to music and try to push the pace a bit. I was enjoying drifting in and out of the my podcast but I wanted to liven things up a bit towards the end. Unfortunately there are some nasty inclines at this point too but I luckily I had enough strength in my legs to get me through. It was really encouraging to pick people off and pass them as I sped up. It was a good way to keep myself going, “one more person” or “just that person ahead”.
It got a lot harder on the final mile, which was my fastest, but I managed to hold on until the end. What was good was that the end of the race followed my warm-up run so I knew exactly how far it was until the end so could work out what speed I could hold until the end. Very handy. I came in at exactly 1:44. I will happily take that time! We got a lovely singlet as well (female extra small woohoo!) which makes a change from a medal or a buff. The finish was great as there were people dressed as Mini Mouse and Elmo. Very fun! I made sure to get a photo of course…It’s funny because though I ate so much the day before I was quite hungry when I finished (I actually remember feeling hungry during the race as well, which never used to happen to me!). Normally after long runs I don’t fancy food but actually recently I’m ready to eat almost straight away. I remember feeling this way after the London Marathon this year too. I guess not having had dinner or breakfast wasn’t entirely wise! But at the time I wasn’t hungry.

I practically hoovered up my porridge as soon as I got back – I was famished! And lunch wasn’t too many hours after either. The calorie balance was definitely addressed; carrot cake from my dwindling freezer stash can help that!

I’m really pleased with how the race went, but it’s given me a few thoughts on what pace I should aim for the marathon, especially if the temperature is similar. Perhaps closer to the 8.30s than the 8s per mile I think!

Do you like to eat food straight after exercising?

Do you stick with safe options you know you’ll enjoy at restaurants or branch out for a change?

Do you use headphones during runs or races?

SimplyHealth Great Newham London Run

After a fairly late Saturday night, Sunday morning saw another 6am alarm and catching a train to London at 7am with my dad. We’d postponed my birthday celebrations and his Father’s Day celebration for this day because it meant we could combine going to a race (and my dad spectating, which he always enjoys) and then going out for a nice meal. A meal my mum probably wouldn’t enjoy! She happily stayed at home, bless her, looking after the dogs.

The 10k race was the SimplyHealth Great Newham London Run. This is organised by the Great Run people, who also organise the Great South Run (a nearby to me 10 mile race in Portsmouth) and the Great North Run (er, not so nearby), amongst others. Though these races can be somewhat pricey, they are always quite a big event with lots of supporters, sponsors and runners. They always feel like a big event, which can be a nice change from the smaller local events I often do. Each have their own pluses and minuses I think!

I was graciously given a place by the Simply Health guys, who are the main sponsors of the Great Newham 10k. They provided me with a very cool technical t-shirt to wear as well. I felt part of the team and ready to go!I had a couple of apples on the train as my breakfast (having a proper breakfast required me getting up even earlier and I preferred to sleep).Plus I knew I’d be eating more than enough later to make up for it! We then got the tube to Stratford, easy peasy. As we got closer to the area more and more runners started appearing. This always gets me buzzed as the anticipation starts to build. It doesn’t matter what race I’m doing, or whether I’m going to go for a PB or whatever, I still get nervous and excited for every race.We had more than enough time, which was nice and meant no panicked rushing around (I often think this is my default in life…). We walked through Westfields shopping area and headed to the Olympic Park.We had a little mosey about, took some photos of course and then I used the facilities. I’m pretty sure I’ve made this point before but it’s always nice to have a proper toilet to use before a race! There were lots of people everywhere but it was all very well organised, with big signs pointing people in the right direction, and water available for people to drink before the race. It was already very very warm. Someone on a speaker kept telling people to drink water if they were thirsty and that “today was not the day for PBs”. I quite liked that approach 😉

I spotted the SimplyHealth area and found they were sorting out a GIF booth. As it was literally just set up it meant I was the first to give it a try. You had to strike four poses in this little booth (with or without props… I went without as I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to increase how much of an idiot I’d already look). You can check out my ridiculous GIF here… I panicked and did a Usain Bolt/dab so it failed somewhat. I got a print out as well as a digital copy of my GIF so that was pretty cool. There was quite the line after I finished so I was glad to have gotten there so early!

Then my dad headed off to where he was going to stand and I headed off to the start. There were pacers, which was handy for anyone aiming for a certain time, and a rather elaborate warm-up (all about dynamic movements and warming the muscles up, which I much prefer to just static stretching). As I was tired from the night before and my 16 miles, I figured sub-50 minutes would be a good aim.Just as we started someone said hello to me and I turned to see my Twitter/Instagram friend, Matt. I knew he, as well as a few others, were doing the race but doubted I’d find anyone I knew as it was so crowded. So I was pleasantly surprised to bump into him!

We started running together and I realised I needed to check if he was aiming for a particular time or how fast he was going to go. He was aiming for 42-43 minutes, which was somewhat faster than I was hoping for! But we were chatting away and the pace didn’t feel too tough. It was nice to have the company too.

The course was a lot more undulating than I was expecting and the sun was beating down quite intensely. I saw my dad at 4k and did my usual wave madly to him. As the miles ticked along I was finding it harder to maintain Matt’s pace. I pushed him to go on without me and he gliding off. As much as I enjoyed his company, it had put a bit of pressure on me to maintain that speed. I didn’t get slower but I didn’t catch up with Matt!The course wasn’t hugely supported but it was clearly marked out and there were two water stops and a shower mist thing to run through if you wanted. We looped around the Olympic Stadium, past the different Olympic bits and pieces. It was a lovely scenic course in that respect. The waters were small little bottles, which are better than huge ones you normally get (so much waste) and you could carry with you as you carried on.

As I got past 5k (at just over 22 minutes, which I was pleased with!) I started to feel like this was too much like hard work… I remembered my intense hate of 10ks. The views were very cool and I really wanted to take my phone out to snap a few photos but the effort of doing that seemed beyond me. You know it’s a tough race when I don’t take any photos!

I kept Matt in my eye ahead but there was no chance for me to catch up. As we got onto the last mile (and nubbin) I could see we were heading back to the Olympic Stadium. The finish was on the track inside the stadium so I felt like the end was in sight. We got onto the outdoors track (where the athletes warm up) and I tried to keep myself motivated to get to the end.As we entered inside the stadium (the bit underneath the seats) the music started pumping out. It was very warm as the air was so still and stale inside the tunnel. And it seemed to go on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. I had visions of us spiralling and spiralling through the tunnel for hours… until finally daylight could be seen and we came out onto the track. Ahh such a good finish. 100m of Olympic track, trying not to look like I was dying for the cameras and hearing the speakers calling out people’s names. I smiled like a loon as I crossed the line. Whew!My time was 44:11 (7th in my age/gender category and 16th female and 340th overall – happy with that!).Considering the 16 miles the day before, how hot it was, the undulating course and my lack of sleep (ALL the excuses of course!!), I am OVER THE MOON. I saw my dad in the stands and he waved at me with a Diet Coke (from a soda fountain – my favourite!) and I headed outside. I saw Matt and congratulated him on his speedy work – I think he was happy with his time. I’m sure he will smash the Berlin Marathon that he’s training for.I headed outside to find my dad. He handed me the cold Diet Coke, which was just heavenly.I’m really pleased with the time I did. I did have ambitions after D-Day 10k to beat that time (43:13) but it wasn’t to be. Though saying that, I’m pleased to have put some effort it rather than slacking off and doing another race where I “just enjoy it” and don’t race. Don’t get me wrong though, I love doing races like that! But it’s nice to get a solid speed workout in, especially when I so rarely do them on my own. It’s always easier in a race because you’re far more motivated.Anyway, after the race we headed to Reds True BBQ restaurant for lunch. By this point I was VERY hungry.

We chose this restaurant because we both enjoy BBQ food and I’d heard good things.The restaurant has a strange religious (or anti-religious?) theme to it… all “unholy sauces” and crazy artwork. I loved it! Very original and unique.We ordered some XXL chicken wings in a Buffalo sauce to share as a starter. I adore chicken wings (you might have realised this by now) and these were some very delicious ones. They were huge! The sauce was delicious as well, not too spicy but a nice after kick. They came with a very small portion of blue cheese sauce but to be honest it wasn’t the best I’ve had and there wasn’t enough for all the wings. The Buffalo sauce was good enough on it’s own though.

For main, my dad had a steak with garlic butter and chips (which he ate a very small amount of!) and I got half a rack of St. Louis ribs with BBQ sauce. They were very tender and tasty. Not the best I’ve ever had (as I’ve had a fair number!) but definitely up there as a good set of ribs. I also added on some rib tips. My first mouthful though didn’t bode well as they were SO chewy. However, after having another try I found some really tender bits too. So hit and miss there.

We left happy and full! But also, very tired. My dad had only 2,000 or so less steps than me which was crazy! He had done a lot of walking while I was running. I had a lovely nap on the train back 🙂

I fully recommend the Great Newham 10k. It was a lovely scenic 10k. Well organised and good fun.

Have you done any of the Great Run series?

Have you been to the Olympic Park before?

**Full disclaimer: I was given a free entry to this race in exchange for an honest blog post review. All opinions are my own.**

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?