Caffeine and me

I recently bought a coffee machine. I never thought I would. I mean, I’m not really one of those OMG I NEED COFFEE TO FUNCTION type of people.

If I don’t have caffeine in a day then I’m generally OK. It’s just habit and the enjoyment factor as to why I regularly drink it. I don’t start shaking or fading through the day or get headaches.

At work it’s a way to get away from the desk and keep me from endlessly snacking on #allthefood in the office. I’ll have a black instant coffee, and thoroughly enjoy it. At the weekend I’d treat myself to something a bit more elaborate at Starbucks, but more because it’s a fun drink to enjoy. I’m that person who has an obnoxious order… half decaf half caf medium Americano with sugar free hazelnut syrup and hot skimmed milk. Why half and half? Because I do like to limit caffeine where I can (and sugar…). I don’t want to become dependent on it and I like to use caffeine in big races to inject some speed into my legs. I don’t want my tolerance level to become skewed.

So why did I get a coffee machine then? Well, I was finding that my Starbucks weekend habit was fairly costly over the year (my drink is around £2.40, so around a fiver a week). In the back of my cupboard I found a milk frother that I’d never used and found I could heat up almond milk and froth it nicely to add to my coffee. I also bought my own sugar-free hazelnut syrup from Amazon, because I’m fancy like that 😉 And literally it’s like Starbucks in my kitchen!I’ve also been drinking a pre-workout before the gym which contains quite a high dose of caffeine (~240mg) and I didn’t want to keep buying it – though I enjoy using it from time to time because it has other added benefits. I do enjoy feeling a bit more awake before the gym so didn’t want to give up entirely on caffeine.So with a coffee machine I could dictate how much coffee I had (and whether it was caffeinated or not) and reduce my coffee/pre-workout expenditure. Killing two birds with one stone.

After a lengthy time wondering what type to buy (most people advising on the very cool looking Nespresso machines) I eventually just settled for a simple coffee maker.

The problem with the Nespresso machines (and the pod coffee makers in general) is that the size of the drink you get is quite small. And I didn’t really want anything too fancy first thing in the morning. Also the pods themselves were expensive, so defeating the point of trying to save money. I wanted a proper MUG of coffee that was cheap and easy to use.So I bought this very cheap Russell Hobs Brew and Go machine from Amazon (around £27.99 – this isn’t a sponsored post by the way!). It comes with a travel cup and basically you can dictate how much coffee you put in and how much water you use. Perfect!

Some people give caffeine a bad rep or just avoid it for their own reasons and that’s fine. Everyone to themselves. But I know that a little bit of caffeine before the gym or before a race can really help my performance. It’s a legal supplement to take and it’s cheap. But if I didn’t have my cup of coffee before a race it wouldn’t panic me. I do parkrun and long runs every week without coffee and perform just fine. Perhaps it’s psychological then that I see these performance gains… who knows. What I do know is, I enjoy coffee and enjoy feeling more awake at 5.30am before I hit the gym.

What are your thoughts on coffee and caffeine in general?

If you drink coffee, how do you take it?

Do you have a coffee machine?

Unpopular opinions #2 and more things I’m loving

I really enjoyed writing the unpopular opinions the other day so I thought I’d do another round, as well as some cool things I’m loving lately. First the unpopular opinions…

I love salad and all vegetables. If half my plate isn’t full of vegetables I feel a bit miffed. In the blogging and fitness world this is not such an unpopular opinion, but perhaps not in the general population. I think it could also be that I’m volume eater and adding vegetables and salad to a dish is a great way to trick my greediness into believing I’m eating more. And that vegetables are super tasty.

I don’t share food. I think this harps back to me being like a squirrel and worrying food will run out. I don’t know where this fear came from because I’ve always been well-fed through my life!

I just don’t share food unless I can guarantee there’s a proper divide and equal proportions of food. And that I still get a significant portion. So if I’ve ever shared food with you, count yourself lucky. To have escaped alive.

I haven’t watched the vast majority of the Marvel movies. I love Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men (not Marvel but superhero-y) and Thor but all the others have passed me by. It might be because I’m not a big Robert Downey Jr. fan but I feel like too much has happened now to catch up.

I like a selfie. Yes it might be narcissistic and vain, but I quite like them. I do a lot on Instagram and it’s more because I like to track progress and keep connected with other people than “omg look at me”. It’s nice when you do it in an interesting place as well. Like, here’s my face plus something more interesting too 😉

Films about animal cruelty get me far more upset than small children cruelty. Don’t get me wrong, the latter does upset me. I’m not entirely heartless! But if a dog dies I will be in pieces. I was really chuffed to find the Hachi statue in Tokyo (actually, the dog was called Hachikō in real life). He was the dog that waited for his owner outside the train station.No film has ever destroyed me as much as that film. I was sobbing. Not delicate little sobs, but full on “I can’t breathe” gasps and shudders. On a coach full of people I didn’t know.

And things I’m loving…

Leisure trainers. Hmm, what? Trainers you don’t run in? What are those?These Nike trainers though are SO comfortable. They’re quite thing and light, so definitely not for running (for me). I wear them to the gym, but I also wear them to the shops and seeing friends. If I’m entirely honest, I’d live in gymwear most of my life. It’s a struggle to wear jeans.

And, I promise they’re not the same shoes, I recently got these Vans:Yes they are very similar colour… but they’re Vans so completely different. Ahem. Anyway they too are super comfortable and handy for leisurewear (leeeeeeeeeeeeesurewear is how I say this in my head).

My new Starbucks mug. I bought this in Tokyo. I’ve never seen a black Starbucks mug. It’s got a very matte feel and says “Starbucks Reserve” on it.It’s a decent size as well. I can’t be dealing with mini-mugs.

Biotrue Eye Products Review

I was recently sent some eye health products from Bausch + Lomb. It’s a bit of a random one I guess but I was keen to do the review because, as some of you might know, last year I had laser eye surgery done. I no longer have to wear contact lenses or glasses – yay! This is still amazing every single day. Though in the morning I will still go to grab my glasses when my alarm goes off, it’s that ingrained.

So these eye products seemed ideal for me to test because, though my eyes have been pretty much 100% perfect since the surgery, they do get a little dry towards the end of the day. I’m sure this isn’t just due to my surgery but also to the fact that I’m staring at a computer screen all day long. 

Biotrue® Rewetting Drops

These drops are used to refresh tired or irritable eyes. And they’re not specific for contact lenses. They contain hyaluronic acid, which helps to maintain the natural structures of a healthy eye.The drops are administered using a the “Control Grip system”. It was easy to use – no squirting or great gush of liquid. It literally just drops one tiny drop at a time in a very controlled way. I’ve used quite a few different types of eye drops and these are by far the best at accuracy and not soaking my face or making me look like I’ve watched Hachi again.My eyes felt very refreshed after using these when I finished work. Driving home can be such a pain when you have dry and tired eyes so these helped give a bit of life back into them. My eyes felt more refreshed and, well, moist (apologies, I know that word is awful for people).

TheraPearl Eye-ssential Mask

The eye mask is to help with eye hygiene and can be used for the management of blepharitis, conjunctivitis or styes when used warm. I can see this fully helping as when I had a stye I used a hot compress (well, a flannel) on my eye for two evenings in a row and it really helped. Using the mask for cold helps relieve headaches.It’s re-usable and moulds to your face thanks (apparently due to the “pearl technology”).

You can put it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds and then put it over your eyes for some instant relief. It’s very soothing I’ll tell you! And it’s very easy to clean if you’re worried about hygiene.You can also pop it into the freezer for around two hours and use it as a cold relief. It’s super handy and easy to use.

Biotrue Daily Eyelid Wipes

The next product are the cleansing wipes. These are a safe and hygienic way to gently clean your eyelids and eyelashes without damaging the delicate tear film. Again this can be used as part of the treatment for blepharitis and cleaning any “crustiness” caused by infections or allergies.To keep everything sterile and from avoiding contamination between the eyes, the wipes are individually wrapped. The wipes don’t contain detergents or preservatives.The wipes are quite refreshing, don’t sting or feel chemically in any way. They do make your eyes feel very slightly sticky, but only briefly. Otherwise they’re great! Find the products from Superdrug or online.

Have you ever had any eye issues?

Do you have a favourite mug? And optimal mug size?

Are you on board with leisurewear?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the eye products for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Bouldering (Birthday weekend–part 2)

Having the birthday that I have (19th June) means it often falls on or is around Father’s Day. I was actually born on Father’s Day and my dad always says it was the nicest present to have gotten (ha, take that Big Sis Winking smile).

Since I did most of my celebrating the day before and my dad and me had done a dual celebration a few weeks ago (Nando’s and cinema – two of our loves), we hadn’t planned anything concrete for the actual Sunday. My dad and me had a nice walk down the beach with the dogs while we waited for my mum to finish at church (my dad and me aren’t religious). Then, with my mum, we went for a little mosey round the shops and they treated to me to a Starbucks. They also got me a brand new travel coffee cup as well as I broke my last one (I’m notoriously clumsy and dropped it).

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It’s cool that Starbucks sell smoothie drinks now with ACTUAL fruit in them. You just take a plastic cup of the fruit to the till and they blend it up.

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My dad had one of those while I had my usual Americano. My parents each had a slice of cake but I resisted the temptation, which actually wasn’t that hard as I was still recovering from the mammoth meal the day before…

Then I went on my merry little way to my bouldering induction. After my booking fail of last weekend I was really keen to make this one! Though not actual rock climbing (with harnesses) it was the next best thing I could do within a short notice (I’ve got rock climbing this weekend).

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It was based at a place called Red Spider in Fareham. I paid £15 for a one-on-one introduction to bouldering session (lasting an hour). The instructor who took it, a lovely guy named Chris, was really good. Very friendly and thorough, especially with safety which is obvious paramount as you don’t have a harness and you are climbing fairly high!

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Yes there is a cushioned mat underneath the wall but that minimises the impact rather than acts as a safety net. You’ll still get injured or cause yourself damage by falling or dropping incorrectly from the wall.

IMG_2302Special climbing shoes

Anyway he got me to warm up by following him through the kid’s climbing area which was highly amusing. We were going up and down these twisty passages (which were actually quite narrow!) and then up slides and things like that. Seemed random but I understood the logic – bouldering uses pretty much your entire body and scampering up and down the kid’s play area was working all our muscles dynamically but safely. Then we started on a wall that was standing height so I could get used to the grips and foot placing. I seemed to do alright and he said my technique and strength was good so we moved quickly on.

IMG_2307After the session on my own

The climbing wall has lots of different ‘problems’ (routes to climb the wall) and each problem is categorised between V0-V5, V5 being the hardest and they’re indicated by colours. You then follow (or attempt to follow) the colour of the holds (the things you grab onto and/or put your feet onto). You can only use the colour holds that are for that problem. So obviously we started on the V0s to get used to climbing up and down. I found this quite easy (not to beat my own drum!) and we moved on to harder ones.

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It obviously helps that I have a fitness background – being a runner means I have strong legs and a high endurance for effort and all my gym work has improved my strength, especially in my arms and core. I also like to think that since my grandad was a proficient climber (he’s written two books about it and is in Wikipedia!) that something may have trickled down into my genes Winking smile

I still found it tough though and on the tricky ones he would explain or demonstrate how to do certain routes, which gave me a range of skills that I could learn and work on. Though obviously I know rock climbing and bouldering has a lot of skill involved, it was fascinating to realise it was a lot more than just having a strong grip and strong arms! There was so much core strength and mental ability required to work out the best way to navigate up. Using your hips as a centre of gravity and twisting your body to get the right balance to get to the next grip. A lot of balance and stability was required.

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Anyway I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I got a super pump from it and I was buzzing. It was amazing how quickly it became a tough workout as well when you went from the easy problems to the harder ones. And the genuine fear of falling was always there. After we finished the session I carried on by myself for about half an hour doing the ones we’d gone through.

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What I also loved about it was how social it was. There were lots of other people there climbing and everyone was so nice. When I got stuck trying to get past a problem, someone was always there to help me out and explain the best way to do it.

I left buzzing and wanting to go back as soon as possible. I’m going to try rock climbing as well but bouldering seems a bit more accessible as I don’t need to worry about having someone to help with a belay. But I’ll see what the rock climbing is like. This is something I really hope to continue. Don’t get me wrong, I obviously still love running but for my sanity I need something else I can enjoy when I can’t run. I like going to the gym but it’s not exactly something you can go and do for fun per se. Bouldering is definitely something I can go off and do on my own and enjoy myself on afternoon.

Have you ever done rock climbing or bouldering before?

What are your hobbies?

What’s your favourite coffee shop? I know it’s so commercial, but I do love Starbucks.

Long run company and an epic refuel

Living on the South coast of England at the moment is quite interesting with storm Imogen howling about the place. Last night it was crazy; ridiculously strong winds, lashings of rain, thunder and lightning. All very exciting, but not much fun for Alfie, my dog, who freaked out. Then he decided (by the way this was 1am) that the safest place for him to sleep would be on my chest. This slightly restricted my breathing I must say…

Luckily the weather seemed only to be terrible in the evenings over the weekend. Saturday morning was actually OK at parkrun, albeit very windy. Our new signs had arrived! So much lighter than the previous ones. IMG_8174This was great in theory (less effort carrying them along the course to the right spots) but it meant in the wind they were in danger of blowing away. They had to be stuck very firmly into the ground.IMG_8176

The ‘Keep Right’ signs are huge! And we have so many now. Because our course is three laps there are quite a few spots where people are overtaking or coming back in a different direction and some of the course is fairly narrow so it really requires people to be sensible and, well, keep right. We don’t have a huge number of people at our parkrun (150-250) but if it’s busy then it will become quite dangerous and collisions could happen. Happily though the signs seemed to work (previously we had two very small ‘Keep Right’s).

It was clear fast times weren’t going to be easy due to the wind. Part of the course runs alongside the seafront and the wind just blows straight across you making it very tough running in a straight line. Though it did push us up one of the hills which is always much appreciated! I took it steady (I think that’s always what I do now, I want it to be a good effort but not full-blown sprint). On the third lap I caught up with the usually very speedy Chris, who I used to be faster than but since my injury and him getting better and better he’s probably a 30-50 seconds faster than me overall, and Mark (very speedy). They’d decided to take it easy, rather than me suddenly become super speedy Winking smile Mark helped pace me to a fast finish which was tough but helpful.

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My time was 23:04 which I’m pleased with considering the wind and the effort I put in.IMG_8213

After clearing down I had to dash off to get ready for a lunch out with my mum and Di (Ben’s mum who I still keep in touch with).

We headed to Hayling Island where we had a nice walk along a coastal path (incidentally along part of the Portsmouth Coastal marathon route) and then headed inside, out of the wind, to have some lunch at The Ship Inn.IMG_8218

Between the three of us we shared a mezze board, which had a lovely selection of dips (hummus, tzatziki, taramasalata and an olive dip), feta, roasted tomatoes and pita bread. Very tasty. For mains we all had the fish stew, which was lovely big chunks of salmon, haddock and prawns in a tomato broth with sourdough bread on the side. We were all rather saintly and forwent pudding. It was a nice light lunch I must say, which is a change from my usual as of late!

During the week I’d received a message from a woman I used to know a few years ago, Shantha. She’s an awesome runner and had been chosen for the 26.2 Project for Women’s Running magazine in 2014. Through their very cool sounding scheme she trained and ran the London marathon in an incredible time of 3:19:20 (though her PB is around 3:14!). Anyway, she messaged me and asked if I fancied doing a long run with her as our paces seemed to be similar (she reads my blog: hi Shantha!). Normally I do most of my long runs on my own unless I’m combining it with a race so I was a bit nervous at first. What if I’m really slow? What if we have nothing to talk about?

I really needn’t have worried though. We met at Royal Victoria Country Park Sunday morning and straight away were nonstop talking. She’s training for the Race to the King ultra marathon in June (52 miles!!) and had previously run a longish run the day before and needed to run about 14 miles. I needed to run 17 miles so we agreed I’d add on the miles at the end. She’d planned a lovely route around Netley, Hamble and Burseldon. We were off-road at times in the mud and splashing through puddles and there was a tough stretch at the beginning on shingle and some testing hills throughout but otherwise it was a lovely relaxed run. The pace felt good though I did worry I was going too slow for her. I wasn’t sure I could have gone faster – not when the terrain was more varied than I’m used to on a long run. We even caught a little chugboat ferry to cross a small stretch of water (£1.50 and took less than 5 minutes – brilliant!).IMG_8219

Ferry boat selfie

It was such a nice change to chat away on a run instead of just zoning out. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a solo long run – mentally it’s just so refreshing. But it was nice to chat to someone so likeminded and at a nice pace. It was also really interesting hearing about her training for the ultra. The miles ticked by and soon we were back at RVCP and saying goodbye. Thank you Shantha for such an enjoyable run! Hopefully we’ll do it again soon.

In the end I had about 4.5 miles to find to get to 17 and I popped on my podcast to get me through. My legs were feeling fatigued and now I was on my own it felt quite tough mentally. I decided to just run a loop and do some of the Netley parkrun but it did feel like treading water in terms of not being very mentally satisfying. Running loops to get miles in never is. But I got it done and felt fantastic at the end. 17 miles done!

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Average pace overall of 8.30min/miles which I’m really chuffed with considering the terrain. Some good miles in the bag!

I got back in my car afterwards and felt on top of the world. Honestly if I could bottle that post-long run feeling it would sell for millions. I got home, ate my breakfast (I didn’t eat before I ran – though I had made sure I had a big meal the night before. I think this was pushing my capabilities of running fasted though. I’ll talk more about this on another post), showered, walked Alfie and then treated myself to a Starbucks. Starbucks is dangerously close: five minutes by car. I took it home, sat on my sofa, got Runner’s World out and fully relaxed.

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I was so chilled it was lovely. I did some odd jobs and just kind of floated around in a post-long run fatigue and satisfaction.

I met up with my parents for an early dinner at….Coast to Coast (I know, we’re obsessed). We were celebrating my dad’s birthday early (which is Valentine’s Day) and we all love that restaurant so it made sense! I was absolutely famished. I’d had breakfast (well, porridge for lunch considering the timing) and though I’d had some good snacks during the day I was FULLY ready for a big meal.IMG_8250

I went for chicken wings to start (delicious), then the St Louis ribs for main (with the BBQ sauce this time – which made them far more tender) and chocolate brownie for pudding. I felt quite stuffed but absolutely satisfied. Yum.

Then I headed home and had an early night. I was pooped!

Have you been affected by any of the storms recently?

 Do you workout or run fasted?

Do you prefer to run long runs alone or with others?

Lots of running and a little bit of mud

From -5 degrees Celsius to the positively balmy 11 degrees today…what is going on? And the crazy snow in the US, this doesn’t bode well for us I don’t think for the future!

But anyway, I did quite enjoy going to parkrun on Saturday morning and not a) freezing or b) getting soaked. It was misty, a bit chilly but otherwise perfect weather. No wind!

My friend, Kelly, from my running club, and I joke every week about how we’re neck and neck in the Netley Abbey points table. She’s number one and I’m number two. To be fair, she’s quite a distance from me and it would take her not to turn up to parkrun quite a few times for me to catch up but it’s nice banter anyway. There’s more chance of the number three lady overtaking me at the moment! I’d love it if Kelly and I both got podium places for the leadership board this year. I think there’s only about eight weeks or so left.

The parkrun itself felt really good. There was no wind, which definitely helped, but I felt speedier running. It was still tough going and the effort level was high but I was running a faster pace. And Royal flush negative splits! For so long I’ve had trouble with getting negative splits for 5ks but now I seem to have found the magic. Holding back a little at the start really does help.parkrun

My time was 22:31 which is my fastest parkrun since August (and that includes the Southampton parkrun at the start of the year which is so much more flat) and my fastest ever on the winter course. I’ll take that! Turns out hill training and my long runs seem to be working 🙂

Saturday evening I went round my friend’s house for a girlie evening with some other friends. We had takeaway and lots of moreish crisps (cheesy Doritos, why do you taste so damn good??). It was such a relaxed evening. Before we met up one of my friend’s messaged saying she just fancied wearing some comfy jeggings and a large jumper, and I said my hair would be scraped back into a pony tail and I’d be wearing my glasses and my other friends agreed on making zero effort – because that’s what friends are about: comfort and no judgement! Love evenings like that.

The next morning I got a nice lie-in as I’d planned to do the local cross country race which started at 11am and I was going to run there to make it into a long run. This meant I could set of after 9am. I ran 10 miles from Stubbington to Hedge End, which is actually quite an undulating route! I’d planned the route the night before and tried to remember the different road names I needed to take, but still somehow I got it wrong. It blew my mind when I popped out of a junction and found myself in a familiar area but of which I had never intended to get to. Thankfully and amazingly my route came to an almost perfect 10 miles (8.07min/mile ave).

10 miles

I arrived at the cross country race location, in Manor Farm, a bit earlier than anticipated (better to have had more time than be late though!). I found some of my Hedgie team mates and also the lovely couple who had looked after my bag as I needed to change into my Hedge End vest and my trail trainers.IMG_7788

It was chilly but not that cold and thankfully not raining. It was definitely squidgy and muddy underfoot though. The race started in a bit of a kerfuffle unfortunately as the path up to the start line was basically the same path we’d have to run down. This meant that trying to get past the start line to line-up (and past the speedies at the front) was quite tricky, especially as people weren’t keen to go all the way to the back. So in the end you just have a wall of people not moving, but facing directly at you ready to start – despite 1/3 of people still not actually behind the start yet!

The race itself was good fun. I definitely felt the previous miles on my legs at the beginning though. I’d already decided to continue with the same effort as before (long run speed) – though this would obviously mean slower in general as the terrain was so up and down and very muddy and technical underfoot. I wasn’t racing or pushing it as this would have been silly for me.IMG_7800

Photo credit: Becky Woollard

Despite this it was still really hard going. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it though. The mud and windy paths were fun to run and it was always interesting. I did get mud splashed in my eye though my an over-zealous puddle splasher. It actually burned!IMG_7803

Photo credit: Becky Woollard

I knew that the race would end on a rather awful hill and when I got to it and checked with my team mate, Keith, running beside me that this was the end. It was. Otherwise I would have walked it if I still had a distance to go, but as I knew this was it I desperately tried to plough up it. Keith was amazing next to me keeping me going and encouraging me on.Manor Farm cross country (3)

Photo credit: Alan

The above photo is literally on the hill. I was fully aware of the camera but it was far more important to push up the hill and not die than try and smile and look relatively OK! Some of my team mates (and friends from other clubs) were at the top and shouted encouragement as well which was much appreciated!Manor Farm cross country splits

I’m really pleased with the splits and how I got on. I think I came 36th female overall? I can’t remember as I was in that much of a daze after the hill and possibly fourth in my club out of the ladies. Not too shabby!

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I was covered in mud but chuffed. I’m so glad I didn’t bother cleaning my trail shoes beforehand either!

Cross country muddy legs

It was quite amusing putting my really muddy trail shoes on before the race as my socks were so clean in comparison!IMG_7795

Some of the Hedgie gang (Photo credit: Kate Maslin)

I had planned to stick around for cake (obviously) but my dad was picking me up and the refreshments area was apparently a long way a way. With a heavy and sad heart I headed to meet my dad. No cake for me 🙁

My dad had brought a number of bin bags for me to sit on, get into and generally keep the car clean as I’d pre-warned him about the mud. It worked quite well!IMG_7794

A terrible photo but basically me sitting inside a bin bag in the car

When I got home he suggested I wash the trainers…good idea! I don’t have an outdoors area or hose to do it at my flat or anywhere to keep them drying so I could utilise my parent’s facilities.IMG_7797

It worked quite well. I didn’t actually realise my dad was taking a photo of me at the time… I was trying not to splash myself which really was pointless considering how muddy I was anyway!IMG_7799

Ahh, look how shiny and clean they look! I don’t plan on doing any more cross country races in the future so hopefully these will stay relatively clean now (which I realise is kind of silly considering they’re trail shoes…). They’re now drying off in my parent’s garage – stuck on two poles to air properly.

The rest of the day I spent at my flat, chilling out and just resting. I was very tried from the long run and cross country but it was one of those satisfied feeling of tiredness. I watched random TV, read my book (Station Eleven – very good) and went on some nice walks with Alfie. I even treated myself to a cheeky Starbucks.IMG_7796

What did you get up to this weekend?

Do you combine long runs with other events to make them a bit more interesting?

What do you prefer: starting a race on a hill or ending a race on a hill? I prefer starting on a hill as the entire cross country race I was just dreading that hill.