On The Whistle – Festive Frolic race recap

The On The Whistle events are really lovely relaxed races. I mean, it actually feels weird calling them races because they really don’t feel like a race in the true sense of the word. Yes you put a bib on and are timed, but it’s not competitive… this is mainly because they’re lapped events with a 6 hour time limit. You can do as many laps as you like within that time and you only need to complete one lap to get a medal. So you don’t know who around you is doing how many laps; some people might be going for a half marathon, some a marathon and some an ultra – and everything in between.

I did one of these events in August just after I returned from the Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp. My knee was a bit battered and it niggled a lot during my first lap so I walked a second and called it a day. I was sad to have such a poor effort but it was the right thing to do on the day. This event, the Festive Frolic, was pretty much identical to the Why Not Run event I did in August – though it was A LOT colder. It was still laps of Staunton Country Park, in Havant, and each lap was just over 4.5 miles. As I’m marathon training it seemed like the perfect time to get in a solid long run, surrounded by other runners and have it catered (the single aid station where the laps begin and end is particularly well stocked with a variety of tasty food and drink).

I’ve been struggling to have any motivation to go on long runs solo so this was ideal to use for my longest marathon run. I was aiming for four laps, around 18 miles, or five laps, over 22.5 miles. What was nice was that I could make a judgement call at four laps and decide how I felt about doing another chunk of miles.

The event started at 9.30am (with the race briefing at 9.20am). Havant is about 30 minutes from where I live so it meant I could have a lie-in until 8am and leave at 8.30am. I vaguely knew where the country park was, having been there a few times, but I still put it into my Sat Nav because, hi I’m Anna and I’m a certified idiot.

When I got to my destination at 9am and realised I couldn’t actually see a country park anywhere I did somewhat panic. Obviously I don’t leave myself any sort of contingency time (ALWAYS ASSUME THE WORST, ANNA). Thankfully as I drove a little further I saw a sign for a car park and a suspiciously leafy area… After spying some other people who were clearly runners I parked up and paid the extortionate £2.50 (I’m joking, big shopping centres could learn a thing or two!).I arrived in good time (heaven knows how) and didn’t have to spend too long hanging about in the cold while everyone pointed at my pink bare legs in horror. I had been tempted by leggings but decided I wanted to wear compression socks (as I tend to do on long runs) so figured I’d be alright. I wore a thin base layer under my running club vest and a super warm sports bra (I quite like it when sports bra add that slight padding bit, not just because us less-gifted females get a bit of a vanity boost but also because it doesn’t half keep the ladies toasty).There were a few people from my running club but most of them were at the league road race, Hayling 10. A few were aiming to do a half-marathon and a few were aiming for the full marathon (which would actually be around 27 miles). I mentioned my goals and several stated that surely if I got to almost 23 miles I’d be far too tempted to bump it up to a marathon to stop. This thought had gone through my head, I must admit, but I didn’t want to set myself any unrealistic targets or put pressure on myself. We’ll see, I said.After a slight delay (we were waiting for the last few people in the portable loo line – the pressure of everyone waiting! How embarrassing!) we were off. Normally I would have had a wee before a race (even if it was just a Psychological Safety Wee) but the queue had been too long and I decided I could use the loo after finishing my first lap. I ran the first few miles with running club friends, Rich and Matt. Rich was aiming for a marathon and they were both testing out running using their heart rate (not going over 180-age). It was interesting hearing about it but it does sound a little faffy to me (and not just because I’m not a huge fan of wearing my heart rate monitor).

A sceenshot from a video (terrible quality sorry!) from the Facebook page

When they decided on a walking break (all part of the plan) I left them and headed off on my own. I had my headphones with me but decided on keeping the first lap “silent”. I tried not to look too much around me as well because I’d be seeing the route a number of times… I just kept my head down and focused on running a slower-than-normal pace. It was all rather pleasant but a little lonely now I was on my own. It’s not a huge race so there weren’t lots of people about, but I could see people ahead and as I was going a bit faster now I slowly overtook a number of runners over the course of the lap.

As I got to the third mile I really started needing a wee. I kept an eye out for a hidden bush but there were a number of dog walkers and considering I only had a mile to go before there would be the loo I decided to just not think about (ha! Easy right?). The course is completely off-road and on compacted dirt track. There were some areas of mud where the sun hadn’t dried up the moisture but otherwise it was easy underfoot. It was somewhat undulating at points, but not hilly.I reached the end of the first lap in about 45 minutes or so (I think it measured 4.6 miles) and ran quickly to the loo. Whew! I didn’t stop for any food as I didn’t need any but turned on BBC Radio 1 on my phone so I could have a bit of mindless music and chatting on my next lap. You can see from my splits where I stopped.I collected my wrist band (to mark a lap) and went on my way.

This lap went fairly quickly. I tried to keep my pace down but felt very comfortable running around 8.30s so just left it there. On the way out you pass runners behind you coming in to end their first lap so it was nice to encourage people on and wave (and also, when I was coming in to my first lap, seeing the speedy front runners heading out for their second lap). Now it was a bit less lonely because you passed a number of people throughout the lap. What was nice as well was that, as it was laps, you would continually pass the same people.I finished this lap and grabbed myself a couple of those chocolate Jazzie sweets. Well, they’re not Jazzies as they’re the bigger thicker ones (I actually Googled them and they appear to be called the “mother of all Jazzies”, which I’d concur). Very tasty. After a bit of stretching (my right hip was feeling a tiny bit tight) and a drink of water I headed off again. At this point I was aware I was third female. I knew there was a girl quite a bit ahead and another girl just slightly ahead. I wasn’t racing so didn’t intend to try and “beat them” but I wondered if I could eventually catch up. On this lap I put on a podcast to change things up. I was now heading towards the half marathon distance and feeling good. My only one slight worry was the tightness in my hip, but it wasn’t anything too concerning, just something that didn’t feel completely perfect.I caught up with the second female as I finished the third lap, hitting the half marathon distance badge that would be attached to my medal, and got some more Jazzies (mmmm so tasty) and more water. I did some more stretching, trying not to worry about my hip (I will hasten to add, it was not developing into a full-on injury, but just a tightness that I was becoming aware of). I didn’t mind stopping and collecting myself at the end of each lap as it kept it firmly in my mind that this was a training run and that all I was after was time on my feet. As long as my pace remained sensible I was happy.

I really like laps because mentally it helped break down the mileage for me. It wasn’t “ooh X more miles to go”, rather you thought about it in terms of number of laps, which is obviously a lot smaller a number. It was more manageable and you could just focus on the lap you were in. Though I did start to consider what my total mileage goal would be… I decided on five laps as I was still feeling good as I was nearing the end of my fourth lap. Like surprisingly good. I wasn’t breathing hard, I was very relaxed and I was finding it quite easy. I contemplated the idea of running to the full marathon… how cool would it be to randomly do a marathon? Unplanned! Just “hey I ran a marathon yesterday”. But as I finished the fourth lap I realised that despite how good I felt, my hip was rather tight and the jump in mileage would have a knock-on effect to my next week’s worth of running. I was only three weeks from the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon. I’m still Anna The Injury Prone Runner… I must never forget that or take things for granted. Over 4.5 miles over my planned distance wasn’t a walk in the park. It was still pounding on my legs, micro-tears on my muscles and ultimately would tire me out. Just because I’m in good shape does not mean I’m invincible.But as I knew it was going to be my final lap I decided to increase the pace a bit. I’d also overtaken the first female who had slowed down a bit. The demons in my head whispered I could be the first female for the marathon! But Sensible Anna shushed her away and carried on with the plan. I passed Rich and told him it was my last lap. I’d expecting him to say I should do another but he was lovely and cheered me on. He went on to do the full marathon distance (he’s a long distance pro), well done him! I tried to wave and smile to everyone I passed – it was nice getting those smiles back which boosted me along and it helped pass the time. I was back to listening to the radio again and was now feeling the buzz of the end of a race. Despite the pace increase, it still felt manageable, yes, harder but not awful. In the back of my mind I was somewhat concerned I was peaking too early in my training… A worry for another day!I finished strong, collecting my final wristband and rang the finishing bell before I could change my mind. I was done! No marathon for me. 23.3 miles (turns out each lap was just more than 4.5 miles…) in 3:21:57 and the first person for 5 laps (out of 9 of us – someone ran 8 laps!!) A solid and strong long run. I was very pleased. I did get a few people asking me why I didn’t do another lap, but honestly I was done. That speed increase on the final lap and shattered any doubt in my mind. Perhaps if I’d have gone slower it would have been more tempting. Who knows. I felt great though. Yes my hip was still tight and my brain was doing the full ANNA INJURY PANIC MODE but otherwise I was really pleased with the run. I chatted to a few ladies from my club who’d also stopped (one due to injury and two who’d done the half distance) before heading back to my car. Very weird for me to drive to and from a race on my own it must be said!For the rest of the day I did some foam rolling and walked Alfie – keeping my legs moving and the blood flowing. I didn’t feel that tired surprisingly. In fact, it really didn’t feel like I’d run 23.3 miles. This is a good sign (or a terrible one, who knows).I fully recommend the On The Whistle events. They’re very well run, great support and atmosphere, inexpensive (around £30) and a lovely goodie bag with a home-baked gingerbread man (matching the medal).  I’d definitely do another event.And, on the hip front because, let’s be honest, this is what was consuming my thoughts a little… The next day I went to the gym and did some more foam rolling, light cross-training (I find this helps flush out some nasties) and then did some hip abduction machine and honest to God it just DISAPPEARED. Like I left the gym with my hip feeling 99% better. I mean, WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL. The hip thing was quite deep in my bum/hip area and I found the hip abduction machine really worked that area so I’m wondering if getting lots of blood flowing there helped loosen it? Hey I’m no physio so I’m guessing here. But either way, it’s now completely gone! I ran on Tuesday and didn’t even feel an echo. Long may this last!

Have you ever done a lapped event?

Have you ever run a lot further than you intended to?

Has a niggly/tightness ever just disappeared for you?

A cold Whiteley parkrun

I was meant to go to Brighton this week but sadly my lovely friend wasn’t very well so we decided to give it a miss. It’s a shame but I’m seeing her the weekend after and I want her to get better so it was for the best. That left me with a strangely free Saturday – one I hadn’t had in a while!

I considered joining some running friends to Alice Holt for a bit of an adventure but ultimately decided I’d quite like a bit of a lie-in and a run to Whiteley parkrun when a bunch of my Hedgie run club friends would be whom I hadn’t seen in a while. It was only 4.5 miles to Whiteley and I wouldn’t have to leave until 8am so that was great. The lie-in until 7.30am was much needed as well as I went to the cinema on Friday night and didn’t get back until gone 11pm! A very late night for me (#grandmastatus). I went to see Battle of the Sexes which was brilliant. And ate about 600g of pick ‘n’ mix… whoops.IMG_0978But anyway, back to parkrun. So I was out of the door (amazingly for me on time) at 8am and into the cold wintery morning. I was very much glad I’d put my running gloves on (my handy eGloves which I can use my iPhone with) and a long-sleeve top. I was wearing shorts but my legs are, in general, never too cold (well, let’s see how that continues anyway). The sun was shining and it was very frosty. The route was a lovely one that went past lots of fields and along country lanes, so a photo stop was a must!IMG_0979The day before I’d planned out the route and about 60% I was fine with as I knew the way, but then the rest required looking at road names and not getting lost… I had a piece of paper with a few directions written down. I thought I was doing fine as I got to the right road names but clearly it’s never that simple for me as I felt like I was going further and further from the direction I needed to be going. As it was now 8.30am and I was still about 1.5 miles away I decided to stop and check my phone. Yes that’s right, I was going the wrong way. So I turned around, kept my phone out and headed in the RIGHT direction.

I arrived, happily, not to long after and saw my Hedgie friends assembling (Transformer-style) in the car park. It was lovely to see them all, but they were all very cold. I was nicely warmed-up due to my run but as we hung about hearing the briefing (which included a lovely Hedge End Running Club shout-out) I was soon shivering like everyone else.IMG_0982My friend Mark was there and he’s super duper fast and he, very nicely, decided to run with me. I knew in my head I wasn’t going to run as fast as I had the previous week. I wasn’t feeling in the right frame of mine and I’m not a huge fan of the Whiteley course. Despite it being very flat, it’s very windy and there are a couple of sharp turns and it just doesn’t feel like you can get a good amount of speed consistently going. But anyway, excuses aside, we started running and Mark was chatting away to me. I could chat back at the start but wondered how long I’d be able to maintain the conversation as we started at 7min/miles.

It’s a funny thing as you begin to get more fit, speeds that a few months ago were really tough and barely maintainable were now my “fast but not that fast” speed. It works the same with endurance. At the start of a marathon training cycle, running 4.6 miles to parkrun and then doing parkrun can be quite a feat, but after weeks of solid long runs it now feels like nothing (can I stress how much I love where I am right now with my running and how I know it won’t last forever and it might all disappear in the blink of an eye. I know this all too well).

That said, it was hard to go much faster that morning. My answers to Mark during our conversation became shorter and eventually left to just bursts of random words through gasps. He was breezing along nicely beside me chatting easily about races and things like that (this being his easy pace considering his PB is sub 18 minutes). It made me remember those times I’d had conversations with people I’d been pacing and they said “Just talk to me and don’t expect a reply”… Oh how the tables had turned.

Whiteley is three laps and as we got fully into the second lap I tried to push a bit harder because “it’s only three miles” (a statement reserved for only certain times during the training cycle). There was a precarious moment during the start of the third lap where I couldn’t quite get the turning right and almost careened into a lady. I apologised and carried on, she didn’t seem to bothered thankfully! As we head to the end, Mark went on ahead and I clung onto his heels as best as I could. Then LITERALLY right at the end where the Finish sign points straight on and he decides to veer off left directly in front of me to where the old finish area used to be, almost taking me out in the process. Luckily neither of us tripped up but it was a bit hairy for a moment. It was somewhat amusing after the event and actually as we stood cheering other runners in something not uncommon! It was clear it was confusing.

IMG_0988Awkward selfies for the win

My time was 21:13, a solid fast time for me lately! Considering I was feeling it at the beginning I’m really pleased with that, and first lady. Whiteley parkrun splitsHappy days.Then, after a brief catch-up with my running friends, my dad picked me up (yes, a fantastic perk of living at home).IMG_0993I got ready quickly as we were heading to Chichester for some Christmas shopping – a tradition we tend to do every year. Chichester is just so lovely at Christmas with their decorations and lights. First port of call was brunch though! None of us had had breakfast so we were all ready for something tasty. We headed to The Fat Fig, where I’ve been before and is just so lovely.IMG_0998My dad and me ordered the large English breakfast and my mum had the more reasonably sized poached eggs on toast with bacon. My dad did make the statement that he’d never imagined one of his daughters would be capable of eating the same large fry-up as him. He was proud, ha!IMG_1001I appreciated the separation of the beans from the rest of the meal (I hate bean contamination) but I was sad there was no black pudding. I also don’t like hash browns so they got left behind, but everything else was hoovered up.IMG_1003And then we were off for a spot of shopping!IMG_1008We tend to go to Chichester every year before Christmas as a family, a tradition I really enjoy. I know it’s only November but I do love how Christmassy everything was. And especially free Christmas snacks in shops!IMG_1005Mulled wine and mince pies! Lovely. I believe this was White Stuff (one of my mum’s favourite shops).

And we obviously had to go into Montezuma, the amazing chocolate shop. We were delighted to be offered a free sample as well. Hotel Chocolat however did not give out free samples (which is surprising as they normally do) so we were a bit disappointed 😉IMG_1013It was very cold walking about but nice that it was sunny rather than raining. And then we headed home, glad to be back in the warm car.

That evening I had a solid dinner and watched Bad Moms with my mum (free on Amazon). We wanted to see Bad Mom’s Christmas bit thought we should probably see the first one beforehand. It was alright – a good mum and daughter film, but honestly Mila Kunis looks FAR too perfect all the time to be playing a so-called busy and stressed out mum. It did annoy me a little…even when she was hung-over she looked amazing!

Then I was off to bed ready to get up the next day for a long, long run at the On The Whistle Festive Frolic event.

How was your weekend?

Are you feeling Christmassy yet?

Do you have any Christmas traditions for where you go shopping?

The Gosport Half Marathon 2017

The Gosport Half Marathon… the elusive half marathon that I’ve entered no less than four times but have never run due to being injured. I entered it for the fifth time and hoped for the best.

Sunday arrived and I was, shock horror, fit and ready to go. And not only this but the weather was perfect. Still and dry. Cold, yes, but no wind. And as the half marathon goes up and down the coast of Lee-On-Solent, this was an absolute dream. Despite being sad I’ve never run this race before, there have been years when I’ve looked out the window at the roaring wind and rain and thought, “meh maybe I’m not missing out after all”.

My plan was not to aim for any sort of PB or fast run. I was instead going to add four miles beforehand to make it into 17 miles and run the race with a lovely friend of mine, Martin, who was aiming for a PB. His PB was around 1:44 so that would mean just under 8 minute miles which I felt like was a solid long run speed for me.

Despite the start of the race being up the road from me it was just that bit too far to run straight from home. Instead I was very grateful to get a lift from my lovely dad to drop me one mile from home so I could run exactly four miles to the race. The things fathers do for their daughters eh!

Happily the race didn’t start until 10am which meant I could wake up at the delightful time of 8.15am and leave the house just before 9am. This would give me a comfortable window to get to the race HQ (incidentally my old 6th form college, Bay House), pick up my bib and not have to stand around getting cold. Hurrah! I forwent breakfast as I wanted the extra sleep and do most of my long runs fasted anyway. Plus if you saw my last post and what I ate, you can probably see I was well fuelled.

So my dad dropped me off a mile up the road (bless his heart) and waved me off. He was going to support me but had time to go home and have breakfast before he needed to venture out (the race was, as I said, just up the road). I’d decided against wearing double layers, despite Alexa telling me it was 0 degrees C outside (good old Alexa). Instead I wore my running club vest, arm-warmers and gloves (funnily enough the last time I wore my arm warmers was also at another half marathon where Martin and I ran together. He said he hoped they were lucky as Southampton was where his original PB was from).

For my four miles, I aimed to keep the speed down. I listened to a podcast as I ran but found myself naturally getting faster (probably not helped by the fact that I was cold for two miles of the run and just wanted to get warmer!). I was also feeling anxious about getting to the race on time and worrying that I’d left it too late to pick my bib up. I hadn’t, but it’s always nerve wracking when you run to a race (or parkrun! A few times I’ve been late…).As I got about a mile away from Bay House I saw the road closures being put out, marshals getting ready and then the steady stream of runners heading to the HQ. I arrived just after 9.30am so I had more than enough time. And actually bumped straight into Martin and some fellow Hedgies as I hit 4 miles. Perfect timing.We headed into the Bay House grounds (which always reminds me of Harry Potter – it’s a lovely building) and collected our bibs super fast and easily. It was well organised and the volunteers all lovely and friendly. Hilariously Martin’s dog, Harvey, did the biggest, steamiest poo right in the middle of the playground amongst all the runners. Martin’s wife, Helen, was mortified. I mean, of all the places, right? It was quite amusing though.As Martin headed to the bag-drop (I had nothing with me, the luxury of running to an event) I headed to the loo. The queues though were massive for both of the more obvious loos. Side note: it was SO weird being back at Bay House. The last time I was there was collecting my A-Level results (*cough* 2006? Jeeeesus). Like a walk in the past! Anyway, I overhead two ladies commenting that they were so glad they’d found the loos in the changing room and I made a quick bee-line there to find no queues! Awesome.Then Martin and me reconvened and we headed to the start. Unfortunately there was around 15-20 minute delay. The lovely warmth I’d acquired from running to the start had disappeared and I began to get a bit cold. Apparently it was due to some traffic light issues and road closures… can’t be helped I guess. And then we were off.The Gosport Half Marathon is very flat and all on tarmac. There are a couple of inclines, but really nothing major. The only annoyance of this race is that if it’s windy there really isn’t any shelter. And the fact that it’s a two looper.

Gosport Half courseSource

The route runs along the coastline of Lee-On-Solent (where Lee-On-Solent parkrun happens) and I know it very well as it’s where a lot of my long runs happen. To run up and down twice was going to be mentally tough. I was very happy indeed to be running with Martin because the race doesn’t allow any sort of head/earphones at all. So Martin and me started around 8 min/miles quite comfortably chatting away.My dad was on the course as well and was planning on moving to another location, so would see us four times (because of the loops). Pretty good! Martin’s lovely wife and adorable pooch was also going to be on the course as well, amongst lots of local supporters (and the legend that is Rebecca – the Lee-On-Solent RD, otherwise known as the nicest woman on the planet).The first stretch passed through the Lee café/shop area where there was lots of support and cheering and then headed down to Hill Head where my dad and me often go to walk our dogs. We then turned around and headed back – but this time along the promenade rather than the road.There were nice parts where you could see people coming the other way so you were able to shout over to people and cheer them on. There were lots of local runners and Hedgies doing it so there was always someone to wave to and cheer on. There was a great samba band which was cool as well. There were a number of water stations (I think at least two stations but we obviously went through them each twice due to the loop. They had those squeezy bladder things which took a bit of sorcery to get into (though far more safe underfoot as they just give way straight away).
We saw my dad several times on the course which was lovely. He’d told me at what miles he’d be at and he literally stood on the road markings for those miles. A man of his word. He cheered us on and took some photos. The perfect supporter 😉
At around 7 miles we reached back to where we’d started and we turned around to do the loop again. We were still chatting away and in a good place. Martin seemed to be alright and I was feeling quite good, despite the four miles beforehand. As we got closer to the turnaround bit near Hill Head (around 9-10 miles) I noticed Martin not talking as much. He told me to carry on chatting but not to expect much of a reply. He was struggling a little – nothing major but just needed to “regroup” and focus. I did what I do best: talk about fluff and nonsense and hoped he was OK.As we got back on the prom we started slowing down a bit. We crept near 9 min/miles. I wondered how this was going to go. Martin told me to go on without him and I told him not to be so silly. I wasn’t running the half for a time and wasn’t going to leave him behind. The tricky miles were 11-12 where our speed dropped.The hard part about this half is that you can see where you’ve got to run to, and it looked really far away. Mentally this is tough. Even though we had “less than a parkrun to go”, the distance still loomed out ahead of us, hugging the coastline.As we got to just one mile away Martin got back in the game and our pace bumped back up towards 8 min/miles. I ran ahead of him and kept checking behind to make sure I didn’t run too far away. I wanted him to use me as a target and almost like a pull to keep him going. After we’d seen my dad at mile 11 he shouted that he’d see me at the finish. Then as we got closer to the finish I saw him drive past us and then wait in the queue of traffic waiting to be let through due to the road closures. He beeped and shouted out the window which was fun. I jokingly said to Martin something along the lines of “BMW drivers, eh!” hehe. The crowds and excitement built nicely as we got closer to the finish and this spurred us on. We managed to finish strongly, just two minutes off his PB (my time was 1:46:40). I’m proud of Martin because despite wobbling a little, he came back strong, and considering he hadn’t been training for a half PB he did fantastically!
I really enjoyed this race. It was a fantastic course, well organised and the weather certainly helped. Though the conditions were ideal, I’m glad I didn’t attempt racing it. I’m not really in that frame of mind at the moment and I’m much more preferring a social long run. To be honest, I got a solid 17 miles in around 8 minute miles so I can’t complain at all! And I felt good and didn’t get injured, so happy days!Also, can we talk about just how good the goodie bag was? Not only did we get a very cool and colourful medal but we got a proper material bag, a juice drink, a banana, Mini Cheddars, a Lion Bar, a cereal bar AND a homemade chunk of cake! I was a little dismayed at first not to find water but actually there was a huge water stand right at the finish where you could grab a few cups. It must be said though, I did actually give the contents of the bag to the food bank when I went to Tesco a bit later (obviously not the homemade cake 😉). They’re not really the sort of things I’d snack on but I hate wasting food.

So the demons are GONE. Gosport Half Marathon done and dusted. Another race failure scrubbed out. Long may this good running continue…

What do you like to see in a goodie bag?

Have you ever run to a race?

Bottles, cups or squeezy water things for a race?

**Thank you Michelle, Hammy and Martin Lewis for the great photos (and my dad of course)**

All the running and all the food

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How was your weekend?

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

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

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?