parkrun, long running and a natural body polish review

This weekend was a really quiet one. I had no plans for once and it was a great time to catch up on house chores and jobs and have a chilled weekend.

I went to Netley parkrun on the Saturday morning. It was a warm morning but windy. I took Alfie along again with me. Now that it’s summer it’s so nice to be able to bring him so he can have a good run about while we set the course up. I don’t always bring him with me to parkrun though because I have to have someone to look after him while I run. My running friend Mike has been bringing his daughter, Kelci, to parkrun lately and she enjoys looking after Alfie, which is very helpful.I always feel so mean leaving Alfie at home while I go off running on a Saturday morning, especially when the weather’s so nice. So I’m very grateful for Kelci helping out! They’re planning on getting a dog of their own so it’s good practice.

I headed to the loo for a quick pre-parkrun pee to find a gathering of people and locked toilets. The person who normally unlocks them was late. Suddenly my desire for a wee intensified, purely on the basis that I might not be able to relieve myself! One of the parkrun regulars, an older and lovely lady, stated rather elegantly that she was “off to find herself a bush”. She said it in such a dignified and polite way it made me chuckle. Luckily though it wasn’t that much longer before the caretaker showed up with the keys. Whew!

And then onto the start and a squinty selfie.The sun was shining and I was fancying a time of around 22-23 minutes. With the wind and temperature I knew realistically breaking 22 minutes wasn’t going to happen, especially after having quite a heavy week of running for me (the intervals on Tuesday and a nine miler with my friend on Thursday evening). As soon as I started running I knew I should have had a warm-up. Why don’t I ever learn? Trying to run fast straight from the start never works and I feel terrible on mile one. It wasn’t hugely busy as the Endure 24 event in Reading was on and a lot of my club and other local clubs were doing it. The Isle of Wight Festival was on as well.I got stronger and felt better as the run continued thankfully (which is why I should warm up!). I waved to Kelci and Alfie on the way round, not that Alfie took a blind bit of notice as he was having far too much fun sniffing and playing with Kelci.The photographer, Chris Stapleford, took all the running photos this week so a big thank you to him. He said to me afterwards that I was one of the few runners that consistently smiled all the way round. Well, I don’t know quite about that as every photo I seem to be looking very serious!!In the end I got 22:05 which I’m chuffed with (damn those 6 seconds though…).Netley parkrun always seems to be a bit short on the Garmin because we go into the trees for a bit of it and it messes with the satellite. We’ve been reassured it’s accurate after several times measuring the course but it does annoy me when Strava thinks it’s 3 or 2.9 miles.

My running friend, Kate, was running with a buggy and she mentioned afterwards how she finds it annoying when people overtake her, cut in front and then slow down right in front of the buggy. I never really considered what running with a buggy would be like and it was interesting to hear Kate’s perspective. I always tend try to get past buggies as it can be annoying to get stuck behind one but Kate’s a fast runner so it must be very frustrating when people will assume she’s slow and just hurry past and then slow down again in front of her simply because she has a buggy. I know it bugs me when people do it to me on the motorway. If you’re going to overtake, maintain that speed afterwards!

I munched on two cookies afterwards (I do love it when it’s someone’s milestone!) and helped clear the course. Another solid parkrun complete.

The next day I had a long run planned with Mike and Kate, aiming for around 13 miles. As I’ve said before, I’m really enjoying running with others and obviously running with Mike is good training as we’ll be running the New Forest Marathon together eventually (me pacing him).

Happily we met at the very socially friendly time of 9am (I like my 8am lie-ins on a Sunday!). It was a very warm morning so we all took water with us. We stuck to around 9 min/miles which felt comfortable but not as comfortable as it might have felt on a cooler day.Annoyingly I stopped my Garmin and saved it again when we crossed for some lights. SO annoying. The route we took is a really boring and annoying route, one I only do if I’m running with others. It becomes more undulating in the later part of the run which is never fun. But it did the job. For Mike to get a sub-4 we need to be running around 9 minute miles for the marathon, though the plan is to start a bit slower than this and pick it up later. I think he found the run quite tough but we’ve only really just started marathon training and it was a very hot day. Plus I think we’re both conscious of how we run the day before at parkrun will definitely have an effect on the next day’s running, so that’s something to bare in mind going forward.

And now onto a review of a body polish I’ve recently been using. When it comes to cosmetics and skincare I’m somewhat…lacklustre? I don’t really have a “routine”. I used to be really good about cleansing and toning, but now? Eh…not so much. I just can’t be bothered. I’m lucky to have good skin (asides from the occasional spot now and again) and I don’t wear make-up so really I don’t do much else than wash with water. When it comes to the shower I just use a shower gel.

I find though I do get a bit of dry skin on my legs so moisturise those after showering. So when I heard about the Beauty Kitchen’s Inspire Me Brightening & Toning Body Polish I was quite intrigued. I’ve found in the past exfoliating can help with my dry skin and this sounded like a really nice product. It contains minerals and naturals oils for detox, exfoliation and rejuvenation. It’s also never tested on animals and suitable for vegans.I use a scoop of it when I’m in the shower and basically rub it all over my legs in a circular motion. You can feel the grainy texture of it working with (against?) your skin as you do so. Then I shower it off. It does take some showering to get it off though as it is quite oily but afterwards my legs felt so silky! And the smell is heavenly. I don’t use it every time I shower because who has time for that!? But I try and use it once every two or three days and honestly it feels quite indulgent.My only annoyance is that it leaves little black flecks in my shower that I then have to use the shower head to wash away. But it’s worth it as my legs are super shiny!  It’s available from Holland & Barrett at £14.99, which is quite pricey (especially for someone who leans towards the cheaper shower gels…). But you only need a small scoop each time so I can see this lasting me a while. I love how natural the product is too. Thumbs up!

How was your weekend?

Do you have a skincare regime?

Do you have routes you’ll only run with other people on?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the body polish for free in exchange for a review on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Stubbington 10k race recap

I’ve been wanting to do this race for about three years. It’s ridiculous because this is a race that literally runs past my parent’s house and the route is one I’ve often used on many a long run.

Finally this year I wasn’t injured (well, coming back from injury but not injured) and it worked well into my marathon training plan (I say “plan” rather loosely). Happily my friends, Kate and Jamie, had signed up too. This was to be their first ever proper road race. They’ve done parkruns and we’ve done an obstacle race together but never a road race.

Unfortunately the weather was predicted to be awful. I mean it’s hardly surprisingly really considering it’s a) Britain and b) January, but us Brits are always so shocked when the weather is in fact terrible. Running in bad weather isn’t so bad but in a race setting there’s a fair amount of hanging around and getting cold before you actually start running and none of us were thrilled at this prospect.I stayed at my parent’s house (it made sense as the race start was a short walk away) and woke up early on Sunday to run two miles before Kate and Jamie arrived after driving from Bristol. I wanted to do the extra miles so I could have a total of eight miles for the day – my longest run yet. It wasn’t ideal having a break between the two miles and the race but I wasn’t going to desert my friends to run the miles just before the race began.

Just one mile out from my parent’s and then one mile back. Fairly easy. The weather was pretty grim but not as bad as expected – a bit drizzly and cold. I wore long leggings to keep myself from getting too cold and as I headed back down the lane Kate and Jamie passed me in the car so it was fairly good timing.

We were all feeling rather grumpy and not up for the race. It also didn’t help that my dad had decided to cook a fry-up for breakfast. Always nice to smell bacon cooking that you won’t get to eat.

We left as late as we possibly could to avoid hanging around in the cold too much. It was only a 10 minute walk, if that, to the race HQ and as we had no bags to drop off (my parents were kindly going to take our coats for us and put them in a big bag they’d brought especially) and we didn’t need the loo, we just huddled inside the community centre.Stubbington 10k is a very cheap race (think it was £16-17?) but it has quite a few of the perks of bigger races, such as a really nice technical t-shirt (which actually fits me!), chip timing, a big inflatable finishing arch with a time-display, lots of marshals and lots of support round the course. It also has waves for the start. As I’m a little faster than Kate and Jamie I wished them luck and headed to my starting area. My neckline felt really tight and I realised I had my black base layer on backwards. Smooth, Anna, really smooth. Luckily, realistically only I could tell.I saw lots of people from my running club which was nice. It’s a very clubby race so there were lots of local clubs from the area. It can feel a bit intimidating because they seem like “proper” runners, as Kate said, but I reassured her that there would be a range of running experience and paces and she wouldn’t be at the back (she wasn’t).

I had the vague time goal of finishing in under 50 minutes, maybe around 46-48 minutes. I didn’t want a hard effort but I did want a sustained effort. I haven’t really done any speed work so I wanted to see what I could do over six miles.

I found the start quite hard going, mentally and physically. I was overtaken quite a lot. And as nice as it was getting lots of hellos from people in my running club and people I knew, it was somewhat demoralising. But I just told myself it didn’t matter, yes I’m not in a great running shape right now and I’m not racing this.

The first mile has a bit of an uphill and then a very steep downhill so it was a mixed bag in terms of pace. A girl I knew ran up next to me and asked what time I was aiming for. I gave her my vague time and she mentioned she wanted to stick with someone. Now usually I don’t mind running with other people or chatting away during a race but I really didn’t fancy it. I wanted to sort of hide away in my mind and just auto-pilot the miles. I didn’t want to offend her though so I slightly slowed down and eventually after some chatter she headed off. It was nothing personal to the girl, she’s lovely, but I just wasn’t in that mood, you know?

There is a fairly sharp incline which seems to go on forever which took a bit of a graft to get up. Then it was plain sailing – I knew this course so well I could just switch off and plan little milestones in my head. A few other people tried to chat to me but my monosyllabic responses discouraged further conversation. I must have seemed grumpy but really I was just wanting to get the race done. 10ks aren’t my favourite, the weather was fairly miserable and the sustained effort was taking its mental toll on me. It sounds like I had a horrible race but in truth I quite enjoyed it; I enjoyed zoning out and letting my legs carry me forward.

The course is fairly scenic, going past lots of farmer’s fields and country lanes and then eventually running along the seafront. It was grim and grey but thankfully not windy. There was a lot of support from the locals and I made sure to smile and thank everyone I could – it must have been so cold for them!

Photo credit: Alan from Denmead Photos 

As the miles ticked off quickly I increased my pace a little and started picking off people in front of me. I managed to pull back some people who had overtaken me at the start and that bolstered my confidence somewhat.

As I reached the last 400m I saw a group of guys from my running club (super speedsters) who were cheering the club in. My running club friend Chris was just ahead of me and they all enthusiastically yelled at me to overtake him (or “chick” him). I tried my best to catch him but I just couldn’t and annoyingly managed to burn myself out before the final sprint. Such a stupid thing to do!

Photo source: Netley Abbey Runners

Anyway I finished strong. I worried I might have pushed it a bit too hard (and at the same time wondered how I managed to pull any of those paces for my last marathon…!).My official time was 46:26, which I’ll happily take! I’m around four minutes off my PB but in reality I’m a million miles from that sort of speed! I’m just happy that my calf/shin felt good (not perfect but decent) and I was able to put in some effort towards the end. A very happy result indeed.There was no medal but we got a lovely technical t-shirt so I’m happy enough. My parents were waiting at the finish line to cheer us in (they’d had a nice coffee in the village while we were running) so it was nice to get my coat quickly back on and to grab a takeaway Costa coffee which was right next to the finish while I waited for Kate and Jamie.Kate finished (1:05) before Jamie (1:05:22) which no one expected – only because Jamie normally beats Kate. Jamie said he didn’t have the best race while Kate said it’s helped re-motivate her for her training for the Bath Half.And then we quickly headed off back to mine where we showered and got ready and headed out to a lovely local pub called the Fox and Hounds in Burseldon. I’ve recently been and had the most amazing sundae when I went out for dinner there (some things are not always blogged about… ;-)) and wanted to recreate the experience with Kate and Jamie, who I knew would appreciate it. I also really wanted something that wasn’t available on the menu the last time I was there.I went for a sharing platter with Jamie (very tasty) and then a hog roast burger topped with gammon and pulled pork. Oh my good Lord this was amazing. Now normally I don’t get burgers as I always feel that the ratio of carb:protein is not at my preference. However, this was a fully stacked burger. My bun could barely contain it. And it fully rocked my world. And of course, the salted caramel sundae for pudding (containing bits of brownie and cheesecake).

Kate and Jamie also enjoyed theirs and ordered the sundaes as well (Jamie refused to give a normal face for this photo FYI).

We had this at 1pm and honestly I could not eat a single thing for the rest of the day (OK that’s a lie, I had two apples). I actually felt a little unwell in the evening and my stomach was making all kinds of crazy noises that night. But it was worth it.

So like old times, a good race and good food!

What do you never normally order at a restaurant?

What’s the best sundae you’ve ever had? Hands down, this one was probably the best I’ve had. The cream on top was proper whipping cream and not from a can.

Do you enjoy chatting to people during a race? Normally I do!

18.5 miles with Fareham parkrun

When I finished work on Friday, instead of feeling elated and chuffed that it was the start of a long weekend, I felt nervous and anxious. I realise this is ridiculous, but I was dreading the next day and the long run I had planned.

As I’ve said in previous posts, I’d got 18 miles planned. In other marathon training cycles I don’t remember ever being so worried about a long run. Yes there’s always a few nerves and “oh God” feelings before but I think because I haven’t’ been enjoying my previous long runs this time around and have been finding them such a grind that I could only think it would be the same but, well, longer.

Instead of leaving it to hang over me all day Saturday I planned to do 15 miles and then finish with a parkrun (5km). This should break the monotony and get it over and done with before 10am on Saturday, leaving my the rest of the weekend to chill. It would also work nicely as I was going to meet my friend, Adi, at Fareham parkrun and get breakfast afterwards with him. We’d met at the Marathon Talk Run Camp weekend and he was in the area for the weekend.

Fareham parkrun is another very close parkrun to my parent’s house, about three miles away, and one neither Adi nor I had done before. So this would mean ticking another parkrun off my list! I’m now on 17 (though technically 18 as I did the one in the States but it only counts for UK ones to get on this special 20+ parkrun lists).

I broke my run into three parts: 12 miles of regular long running-ness on my own following a route I always do, then three miles to head to parkrun, then actual parkrun which would then equal just over 18 miles. I can’t tell you how positive this made me feel beforehand. I’d psychologically tricked myself into thinking it wasn’t actually that long (the question “how do you eat an elephant?” comes to mind).

So I headed out at the delightfully early time of 6.30am (having woken up at 5.45am, surprisingly awake and ready to go, no breakfast as normal). Obviously it was a lot cooler at this time and wonderfully quiet and peaceful. It felt easy getting going and I had the brand new podcast episode from the BBC 5 Live show on. I was in a happy place.

Everything went swimmingly apart from one tiny annoyance with my calf. It started to feel really tight as I headed to Fareham. Not injury tight or worryingly so, but just a sharp reminder of why I normally wear compression socks for long runs. It was bearable, just annoying. I also realised I actually didn’t know how to get to the parkrun.

Fareham parkrun (2)Cams Mill pub just next to the parkrun start

OK I knew where it was and Fareham is a very familiar place to me having lived around that area for most of my life, but the start is surrounded by really busy A roads and I wasn’t sure where to get to the safe crossing. I managed to add half a mile onto my run for going the wrong way…well it could have been worse!

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And as I arrived I bumped straight into Adi which was perfect! And then my friend, April, appeared as well which was lovely.

Fareham parkrunThe start area of Fareham parkrun

April and I know each other through social media and briefly chatting before parkruns but we’d never actually spent a long period of time in real life together so it was really nice to properly chat to her for once!

Fareham parkrun (1)There are some lovely views from the parkrun

A few of my running club were there too which was nice so there was quite a crowd of us in the end!

IMG_4544Photo stolen from Laura!

The actually parkrun was, at first, quite hard to get going again having been stood around for about 10 minutes but once I loosened up I was fine.

imagePhoto credit: Peter Stod

Obviously I was tired but it was nice chatting to Adi and April as I ran. The parkrun is an out and back and on a trail path (easy stones not grass) and relatively flat and it seemed to fly by. 18.5 miles done with a negative split parkrun to finish!

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April had run seven miles beforehand and is coming back from injury and Adi had recently run 100k (his first ultra!!) so I think we did quite well considering!

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April joined us for breakfast afterwards which was lovely. We had planned on having breakfast at the Cams Mill pub just next to the parkrun but they weren’t serving food until 10am (or “when the chef arrived”) so we decided to walk into Fareham proper and find somewhere there as it wasn’t far. In the end we chose a Whetherspoons which was perfect as I their fry-ups are just the right balance of greasiness and tastiness Winking smile

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It was so lovely to catch up with them both and talk all things running and randomness. We then parted ways and my dad, who was handily doing his big Tesco shop just over the road, gave me a lift back. Perfect!

So in the end my run went really well. I loved that it was over and done with so early and it didn’t feel like a slog. Going a lot earlier is obviously a lot better as well (I realise this is a “you think, dumb arse?” moment) but I get up so early in the week that I hate getting up super early at the weekend.

The rest of the day I was so chilled out. I wasn’t actually that tired either which was a big surprise as normally I’m fit for nothing after a long run. I went shopping with my mum, sister and little niece, Ellie.

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A Starbucks stop was in order of course and Ellie asked me her advice on what cake to get. Using my wealth of knowledge of all things cake Winking smile I suggested the caramel mallow top cupcake. Ellie even graciously allowed me to try it, bless her. And we both agreed, it was a fabulous selection. The whole top of the cupcake was covered in marshmallow fluff (and had caramel injected inside it), then covered in caramel and chocolate on top of a chocolate sponge. Yum. After my mammoth breakfast I actually didn’t fancy a whole cake to myself (who am I!??!) and didn’t end up eating until dinner that evening. To be honest, when you’ve run a long run you do feel a bit ‘off for the rest of the day I find. It isn’t until the day or two after the runger fully hits you Winking smile

Anyway, I’m so relieved that the long run went well. It’s made me feel so positive about long runs going forward. I’m probably going to do something similar for this weekend but running to Netley instead and making sure I arrive with only five minutes before the start so there’s less standing around. We’ll see!

What’s your ideal way to do a long run? Breaking it up or all in one go?

How many different parkruns have you done?

What’s your ideal breakfast after a long run?

IAAF Cardiff Half Marathon 2016

Cardiff has such a special place for me in my heart because of the three years I spent there at university. I met some of my best friends there and we have such good memories of our time (amongst the ridiculous hard work and stress, of course). So running a half marathon there just made sense to me. I was never a runner at uni so it was strange going back for a race.

So carrying on from my last post…

The wind was picking up and the rain was just starting as I clustered together in the starting pens with my running club buddies (though some had gone to the super speedy pens – sub 1:30!). I’d lost Matt after seeing my running club and it was difficult to spot anyone when we were all wearing our ridiculous white ponchos (ridiculous perhaps, but definitely grateful for!)

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As we stood waiting we heard the male elites announced (big cheer for Mo Farah of course) and after each name huge bursts of fire were sent up next to the castle. For those brief seconds we were warmed by the flames. I had a moment of panic when I realised I needed a wee…but thought “just hold it”.IMG_9523

We jostled about (took a selfie, of course) and then finally we were off! The wind was against us from the start but I didn’t feel it too much. I found a comfortable pace and decided to keep that feeling of effort, regardless of what my watch told me.

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I’d separated from my running club buddies but was happy to run at my own pace. I had a brief moment of “damn I wish I had music or something” as I soon found myself a little bored and demotivated. I had a weird moment where I suddenly felt a bit tired and “can I do this?”. I have no idea what came over me but I just felt a bit mentally exhausted, without that actually translating to my body. I gave myself a shake and got on with it though.

image(Photo credit: http://www.cardiff2016.co.uk/)

We began running through an area of Cardiff I’d never been before (out of my student bubble I suppose) and it reminded me so much of the Reading Half Marathon. There were residential areas and also industrial bits that just reminded me of the monotony of the Reading course, and the fact that there were always people around me as the entry size was about the same. And similar to Reading, despite the weather, there were a good number of supporters all along the course shouting and cheering. It had a great atmosphere. But every single loo I saw made me want the loo more but I couldn’t bare to stop and faff about.

Before the race, Matt and me had discussed the course and where we thought the wind would be the worst and both agreed it would be around the Bay where there was so much exposure. As I got closer to that area I found the wind was actually behind me, pushing me along. It was amazing! OK it was annoying having my ponytail flap me in my face and it being so gusty but it was great having it behind us. In the back of my mind I kept thinking, when’s it going to turn…

20x30-WHMN2189Going through the Cardiff Bay area and past the Wales Millennium Centre

[I bit the bullet and bought my race photos as they weren’t that bad – plus my mum wants some nice ones for her conservatory…haha]

I let my pace increase as the wind pushed me along (it would be silly not to take advantage!). At around seven miles it suddenly (and I mean suddenly) down-poured. Within seconds everyone was drenched. I was actually a bit worried about my contact lenses! I remember hearing people around me swearing and then this Welsh guy goes “come on guys, what did you expect – it’s Wales! This is our summer!” which was funny.

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A couple of times during the race my tummy went funny and I had some regrets about the rather large pre-race breakfast. I definitely did not need any gels during that run!

20x30-WHMH0218I have no idea where this photo was taken!

We headed back towards the city and still I felt the wind on my back. I kept a smile firmly plastered on my face as I found that more people cheered when you looked happy. I was genuinely happy though. The pace wasn’t easy but it wasn’t a sustained effort either. The wind was contributing to some easy and tricky moments but overall I felt it was helping rather than hindering.

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We got to a lovely residential part of Cardiff that has a beautiful park and lake that, as a student, my friends and I used to walk around (Roath Park). I know I keep saying this, but it just felt so weird to be in such a huge race running those same streets again. I saw the coffee shops I’d been in, saw where the Woolworths used to be that we always went to to buy our cheap pick n mix for the cinema (we were that cheap)… it was just great. It kept me entertained. People cheered my name out as I had it on my vest and I just kept smiling.

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Then as we came around the lake the wind hit us in the face. The dream was over and the work was needed to be put in now. I tend to break half marathons into chunks: get to 5 miles, get to 8 miles, get to 10 miles (just a parkrun to go!) and then mile by mile until the end. The last three miles were tough. My legs were tired (mile 10 was actually almost mile 16 after my earlier run) but I kept going. I stuck with a girl who had “Elaine” on her vest and played the game in my head of who got more cheers, Elaine or me. It made me smile more and look at the crowd so I think I won Winking smile Elaine did well though, a worthy contender.

IMG_9585(Photo credit: @Dan_Nash94)

There was a steep incline at Mile 12 which was tough…but generally the course was flat.

Then the best, but hardest part, of the race. Running through the Cathays area. This is literally where I used to live. Despite feeling tired, I couldn’t help but have a huge smile on my face. A guy next to me turned to me and said “that’s not fair! You’re still smiling!”. And then I ran past the road I used to live on and, this will sound ridiculous, but I got a bit emotional. Must have been on those endorphins Winking smile I knew where we were finishing so I knew exactly how far we had to go, because I’d walked that way so many times during university. Past the Lidl I used to shop at, the pub I used to go to, over the bridge (what a bitch at these final stages of the race!) and then past the beautiful university buildings and all those crowds. It was a fantastic way to end the race.

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I finished in 1:42:55 (chip time), 159th in my age/gender category and 2498th overall. For a training run as part of a longer run I’m over the moon with that! 7.47min/mile average is not too shabby!

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I finished the race and headed straight for the bag drop area as it was COLD. I was soaked through and got very cold very quickly. Luckily I bumped into Matt again as he was heading back from the bag drop (he did a very speedy 1:36 dead). Then we walked back to his hotel and where my car was parked. It was a good job I was with him as I wouldn’t have had a clue how to have gotten there again!

We said our goodbyes and I stripped off my wet vest right there in the street (I had a sports bra on it was fiiiine), got a dry layer on and got straight into the car and headed home. I stopped at the first services back in England after the bridge and dashed into the loo. Finally had that wee I needed!! I got a hot coffee and then back on the road again.IMG_9548

My heating was blasted on full, I had a post-race banana and I had my music up. I sang all the way home in a happy buzz of post-race euphoria. Despite the awful weather I got back to my parent’s in under three hours, but it seemed like no time at all. My dad had picked up a takeaway for me so I had that literally as I got in. Showers can wait!

And then I was completely wired for the rest of the night. The coffee, the food, the buzz… I just couldn’t relax. I was tired and my legs ached but I was buzzing. But I had no alarm set the next morning so I wasn’t worried Smile

So a fantastic race. I loved it and fully enjoyed it, despite the wind and rain! And an extra small ladies technical t-shirt that fits!!Cardiff Half Marathon Medal

Have you ever raced in a city that’s special to you?

Do you prefer the wind behind you or no wind at all?

What’s your perfect race start time?

Easter Weekend

And just like that the four day Bank holiday Easter weekend is over… But it was a pretty good one!

I didn’t do that much on Friday as I was driving up to Cardiff to see some friends and also to do the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff on the Saturday (sounds way more exciting than just saying the Cardiff Half Marathon). From Southampton to Cardiff it’s about three hours and as one of my friends and her husband lives there I went and stayed over on the Friday night so it wouldn’t be as stressful getting up there in the morning.

It was really nice to see them and they cooked an amazing chicken chorizo meal that evening (I stole the recipe, a Hairy Biker’s one, and will be recreating!) They even got slices of cake from a bakery as pudding – now that is good hospitality! Winking smile

The next morning I’d planned on getting up and doing the Cardiff parkrun in the morning as the half marathon didn’t actually start until 2.10pm (which I assume is so they could get optimum TV coverage). As I raced my last weekend’s half marathon I wasn’t intending on racing this one and wanted to try and get to around 18 miles for the day, though it would obviously be a bit disjointed as parkrun starts at 9am.

I went to Cardiff University so it was such a blast from the past to be back again. Though I have obviously been back since, just not for a while and usually just to visit my friends who live in the suburbs. I love the city and have such great memories so this was one of the main reasons I wanted to do the race (and the parkrun).

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The parkrun is right next to a huge Tesco so they’d advised parking there, which was very handy as I knew exactly where that was. I got there just before 8.30am. I was meeting up with my friend, Matt (a good running friend who went to the MT running camp weekend). A few of my running club were doing the Half but most of them wouldn’t be up until later and Matt was happy to run a couple of miles before parkrun with me to get my mileage up.

One half of a running club couple, Mark, who had also stayed in Cardiff on the Friday night joined as well and ran down from the hotel (another marathoner in training) so it was nice to catch him too there.

IMG_9497Matt, Mark and me resplendent in red!

Matt and me ran 2.5 miles nice and easily and quite close to the parkrun starting time so there wasn’t much of a gap. The parkrun course was super flat and followed the Taf Trail. It was such a walk (or run!) down memory lane as I used to live in the student flats literally five minutes away and we’d often come down to the park. I wasn’t a runner back then so it was quite surreal.

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I ran with Mark and we both decided to keep it easy… though this didn’t exactly work out that way as we were both enjoying the flatness and also both being too polite to the other person to slow down in case the other person didn’t want to.

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So in the end we went faster than we’d intended and tried not to worry what that would mean for the half later on!

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The above splits include the 2.5 miles at the start (obviously). My parkrun time was 22:59. I’m really chuffed with the royal flush negative split for the entire run – not too shabby! (Though it was entirely unplanned).

Mark ran back to his hotel (hardcore), and Matt graciously invited me back to his hotel (wahay! Joke) so I could freshen up and get changed before the next run. I packed so much kit as I wasn’t sure what the weather would be like. I really didn’t want it to rain at parkrun and then for me to be soaked for the rest of the day. Luckily parkrun was lovely and pleasant and rain-free. I sensibly brought some warm trousers and a good coat to put on over my shorts and vest this time. We now had a long time to kill before 2.10pm!

After changing we walked into the centre of town (so handy for me to leave me car outside his hotel as it meant I could avoid ridiculously expensive car parks and could get home quickly at the end without getting stuck in traffic coming out – thanks Matt!).

The city was buzzing with excitement for the upcoming race. Runners were walking round everywhere, brandishing coffees and bananas looking at maps and carrying their race packs.Cardiff Half Marathon

The sky was looking more and more ominous as the time ticked by. There had been weather warnings for Wales and the chance of rain was now almost guaranteed.

To fuel up, keep warm and pass the time, Matt and me headed to a Welsh cafe for breakfast, though really brunch at this point. My friends the night before had recommended this place to me the evening before saying they did great breakfasts and it was just slightly off the beaten trail down one of the boutiquey alleyways.

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It was called Garlands Eatery and it was a lovely quaint cafe with beautiful, random decor (lots of old pictures all over the walls). We both saw the ‘Full Meaty’ English breakfast (Welsh breakfast I suppose!) and ordered that with some coffee and some added black pudding for me – I love the stuff!IMG_9509

It was about 10.30-11ish by the time we were eating and I thought this was pretty safe for such a big meal before a race. I’m too greedy to resist a Full English and it was a training run (these were the arguments I told myself as I tucked into that epic meal). It was, as you can imagine, delicious.

To pass some more time we had another coffee and just chilled out chatting. Then we left for a wander around and to help digestion!

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We checked out the bag drop area and race centre which was packed already full of people and good atmosphere. Matt then indulged me by walking with me to my old psychology building where I used to go to lectures etc. Compared to the beautiful Hogwarts-style university building nearby, the psychology building is so ugly!IMG_9514

A 12-floor tower block of ugliness. But it brought back good memories nonetheless. At just after 1pm we headed to the bag drop again as the race drew closer. The race pack came with ponchos so we quickly put those on after de-robing. It was windy and chilly but nothing as bad as I’d felt in Weymouth the week before. The rain was just about holding off…for now.

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This obviously required a poncho selfie Winking smile I then met up with my running club mates who were equally attired in the latest look.

IMG_9562Hedge End Running Club (Photo credit: Andy Cockerell)

I’ll recap the race in full in another post as this will be far too long otherwise.

So skipping instead to Sunday… I had a terrible night sleep on the Saturday. I think the combination of the later than normal race, a Costa coffee late afternoon on the journey home, aching legs from a big mileage day and just general excitement and buzzy-ness from a good day meant I was a bit wired. I didn’t fall asleep until about 1am, and then woke up around 7am (though because of the clock changes it was actually 8am now). I was at my parent’s house so I did have the absolute bliss of laying in bed and watching stuff on my iPad for a couple of hours  as Alfie could just go out in their back-garden with the other dogs so I had no reason to have to get up straight away.

I also had no long run as I’d done it the day before! I did want to have a 3 mile recovery run though to shake my legs out as they felt pretty terrible (especially after the three hour car journey home). I was a bit dubious to go for a run after such a hard day the day before but in the end it was the best thing I could have done.

The weather was sunny and the temperature cool, though it was still so gusty. Surprisingly my legs felt OK. I thought they’d be niggling and heavy but they felt good. I just ran comfortably and went with it, listening to the radio (Radio 1 had a requests show all weekend so there were some great and random songs being planned, not just the top 40). Then at around two miles it suddenly went really dark and the heavens opened up. A ridiculous amount of rain and hail descended upon me and I was literally drenched. This sped me up somewhat as I ran back to the warm and dry. My dad found it hilarious when he opened the door for me.

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But I’m glad I got it done as my legs felt a lot better afterwards. I’ve never really been fully on-board with recovery runs as I always fear the pounding will only make things worse for me and my injury prone body…but actually it worked nicely.

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A hot shower felt so good after that run!! After breakfast my parents gave me my Easter egg. I realise this makes me sound about 12 with that sentence but I’m doing my parents a favour in a few weeks and I jokingly said they could repay me with an expensive Easter egg… They thought it a great idea and who am I to disagree?? Especially when it’s a Hotel Chocolat THICK chocolate egg (£25!).

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It’s a ridiculously thick egg (as you bloody well should expect for that price!). One half of the egg is packed full of cookie and puff rice pieces and the other half with caramel pieces. Inside the egg it’s full of different chocolates. Best. Egg. Ever.

The rest of the Easter break was full of a) lots more food with my family and enjoying some film-time and walks, b) lots more chocolate, and c) lots of chilling out and a bit of shopping! I did manage to get the gym on the Monday but it was heaving with people. Not a fun experience! Clarifying why I prefer to go so ridiculously early normally! Everyone clearly had some calories to burn Winking smile

What did you do over the Easter weekend?

Did you get any Easter eggs?

Thoughts on recovery runs?