Currently – July

Goodbye July, hello August. WHAT. How is this even possible? We’re hurtling our way to Christmas! OK that’s dramatic. But seriously, I can tell that winter is coming because I get up so damn early and it’s a lot cooler and darker in the morning. Sad times indeed.

So anyway, July has been a weird month. So much running, then not so much. A very weird month. I’ve only got one whole month before the marathon and the Dorney Half I’ve signed up to mid-August (so the need to run is getting stronger. But anyway, I thought I’d do a “currently” post to mark the transition between months.

TV: Game of Thrones. Geek time here commences… I am both extremely happy about the current situation but also sad. Things are happening at breakneck speed due to the limited number of episodes. And the fact that we’re “off book” now is also concerning. George R. R. Martin is an unbelievably talented author, similar to Tolkien, in creating vast and complex worlds. I worry that the show won’t live up to his storytelling and they’ll try and get the most dramatic ending rather than staying faithful to the book’s groundwork. We shall see. Though I will be very excited when the final books are finally finished. Sorry geeking over.

Books: I’ve just recently finished reading The Circle by Dave Eggers.I really enjoyed it but it felt a little close to home. All about the rise of technology and knowing everything about everything and nothing is private anymore. The all encompassing nature of social media. Creepy stuff.

I actually started reading the book because I saw a trailer for the film and it looked interesting. Then read the book and started the film (a Netflix Original) and Emma Watson just annoyed me too much. I think I’m in the minority here when I say I don’t like her acting. I tolerated her in Harry Potter and to be honest she seems the same in all other films. I find her very wooden. I like her as a person though (not that I know her obviously) and how she’s quite forthright in her opinion on feminism.

Food: Since I’ve come back from Austria I’ve been really craving whole baked fish. We had it as one of the evening meals and since then I just want it all the time. It’s weird because, though I do like seafood, it’s not usually something I’ll go out of my way for. In a restaurant I never order it. But popped it in the oven, wrapped in foil with lemon and spices, it is DIVINE. I like that it takes me ages to eat as well because of all the bones. I’m such a fast eater that anything that slows down the process is a win for me. I was going to have a photo but it’s really not that pretty a meal!

Treats: God, where do I start? Cake. All the cake. As a farewell to work I bought a dozen Krispy Kremes (original glazed, god I love them) and an Emoji cake because…well, do I need a reason??I was also bought a very delicious slice of bannoffe cake on Sunday… happy girl.

Fitness Clothes: I’m now the proud owner of a Strava vest. I don’t think they make clothing to sell but I managed to get my hands on one because it was originally sent to Martin Yelling (of Austrian Marathon Talk Run camp – I promise I will stop going on about this soon) but it was clearly too small for him so I got it instead! (I was the quickest to claim it).And hilariously as a late birthday present from my lovely friend she bought me an Under Armour top. I love it, it’s got long-sleeves and wicking material. The only thing is, when I went to pick Alfie up from my parents on Saturday (they kindly looked after him for me) I saw what my dad was wearing.

We met half-way, my parents don’t live in a car park

So I got my mum to hold up my top in comparison. Hilarious. Just means my dad and I can never wear them at the same time. Still a good top nonetheless!

Beauty: Yeah I don’t really “do” beauty I guess… all about the low maintenance over here! That said, I do love moisturisers and lip balm. Keeping the skin all nice and soft. I always carry lip balm around with me because I hate my lips getting dry (also, dry lips and buffalo chicken wings – the WORST). I never wear lip gloss or lipstick (#longhairproblems… have you ever got hair stuck in lip gloss? It is GROSS) but lip balm is my thing.

So I was recently sent Liquorice Balm, which, as you can imagine, is a liquorice lip balm. Now I’m not a fan of liquorice at all so I was a little dubious about trailing this product. But actually I thought it’s probably handy as I know there are many people who are similar.This balm is aimed at reducing cold sores, which actually affect almost 30 million people in the UK! Incidentally this occurs most often when travelling as there’s a lot of air changes from when you’re flying, being in air con and being out in the sun. Lots of stress to the lips.

The Liquorice Balm can help because is contains a key cold sore fighting ingredient from the liquorice called glycyrrhizic acid, which targets the genes that are required to maintain the virus in its latent state by interfering with the production of special proteins that feed the infected cells. It’s also free from parabens, perfumes, MI and SLS and is under the 100ml limit so you can take it with you in hand luggage.It’s quite oily but once on the lips it sticks nicely and I find it does help soften my lips when they’re feeling a bit flaky and dry (niiiiice). It does smell of liquorice but actually doesn’t really taste of it at all. Definitely not after being on your lips a while. As someone who HATES liquorice this was fine! It’s available to buy from www.skinshop.co.uk.

Have you bought any new fitness gear lately?

Do you wear lip balm?

Game of Thrones fan? Any crazy theories?

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

Not panicking

Here we go again. The weather is definitely on the change. The morning’s are not distinctly cooler and autumn is swooping in fast.

My weekend was a mixed bag really. Just rolling back to the start of the week I decided to book myself a sports massage with my normal physio as I could feel my shin/calf was a bit niggly. I ran on Tuesday night and it felt fine during the run but after doing some track work on Thursday night, it was definitely more grumpy. Luckily my massage was booked for Friday as I was working from home so it was nicely timed.

The physio wasn’t too concerned. She said it was just getting a bit inflamed which was causing the tightness. It’s annoying because I’ve managed to avoid all other injuries by strengthening my body; no IT band issues anymore, no knee issues, hip issues, groin issues etc. All of which have consistently plagued me in the past. After strengthening my body (specifically my glutes) I haven’t had any twinges, tightness or anything. The issue I’ve been consistently having with my shin/calf though I don’t know what to do about. I wondered if it was because I had weak calves and over the past few weeks have been doing lots of calf raises (single leg on the stairs).

After talking to my physio though she reckons that’s unnecessary and probably compounding my issue further. She said my calf (the one I’ve really focused on) feels very tight and this is probably making things worse when I run. Looking back it does seem to make sense as it has only got more niggly the more strength work I did. The likelihood is that it’s a biometrical issues caused by my flat feet (*sighs*) which gets aggravated when I do lots of mileage, but usually isn’t anything that comes to much (I do get a very slight similar issue in the other leg, but it never comes to anything). However adding in my quite enthusiastic calf raises most days (yep, I’m that keen) has just sparked it off. Thankfully though she’s given me some good exercises to work on my flat feet to strengthen my arches to try and stop this happening in the future. All about the toe-grabs 😉

And because I am such a paranoid runner and terrified of stress fractures I asked if it could be or was close to being a stress fracture (I know how ridiculous this sounds…especially as there was no actual pain). She knows my neuroticism and all but laughed at me. She ultrasounded my entire shin and calf area to reduce any inflammation and reassured me that if I had a stress fracture then the pain of the ultrasound would have been severe. The fact that I felt nothing proved I didn’t have one. Well, that’s something!

After that very long explanation, I ran parkrun on Saturday because I wanted to do it and because I wanted to know in my mind how bad it was. It didn’t feel amazing but no pain, just discomfort and, well, niggliness. It was very tender from the massage as well which probably didn’t help. I shouldn’t have run (my physio advised against it…yes I know, I’m ridiculous) but mentally I needed to know. It wasn’t any worse afterwards…

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It was the first time in ages that I was cold before we started. I say cold, more chilly really. Nothing like as bad as it gets in the depths of winter when you dread taking your coat off to line-up.

The rest of the day was, again, sorting more house stuff out. Specifically the loft and shed. Everywhere else is pretty much sorted in terms of streamlining my stuff, separating bits and pieces between Ben and me and throwing out/giving away/selling junk. Just the loft and shed are a beomoth of crap and full of stuff that “we might use later”.

The next day I’d planned 16 miles but on the advice of my physio I cancelled it. I’m probably going to take the rest of the week off just to be safe. For once I’m not panicking. Obviously I don’t want to DNS Bournemouth but I don’t think it’ll come to that if I’m sensible. Thankfully this isn’t an injury, but it could become one. A week off now means things can resume again without issue (FINGERS CROSSED). I think I’m mainly not that stressed about Bournemouth because I have no goals apart from to just finish it. Getting close to my previous times would be nice but I want to enjoy the marathon and not rinse myself and stress out. I just love marathons and want to continue my streak of having another good one in terms of enjoyment.

So I ended up in the gym on Sunday morning. I didn’t set an alarm but woke up at 7.30am and realised I could make the 8.30am Spin class. Ultimately having someone yell at you to workout is so much easier than motivating yourself I find (if it’s not running that is).

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I haven’t been to Spin in ages and was dreading it. But you know what, I really enjoyed it. The instructor was fantastic and played some great music. The sprints were hard but I found myself really going for it. Good workout indeed!

I wanted to exercise for around the same time I’d have been running for to maintain some sort of endurance (and sanity) so went on the elliptical machine, the rower and then followed by the stepper. I find it so hard to motivate myself or keep myself interested which is why I machine hopped (I tried to keep the breaks minimal when hopping between).

IMG_3806Less time than I would have been running but higher intensity I suppose. No way near as fun as a long run (and calorie stats and HR are so dull in comparison to having minutes per mile splits and elevation charts…) but it is what it is!

The rest of the day was spent having a long walk and chat with a close friend with Alfie. The weather was beautiful and it was lovely. Not much else to report sadly. Like I said, a bit of a mixed bag. I’m not stressing about my calf but I am bummed I can’t run…for the moment. But I have a far more positive outlook 🙂

Also, I’ve just started watching the Hannibal TV series. I was a bit reluctant as it looked a bit gory and scary for me but I liked the sound of the premise and the two guys in it are quite dishy (in a weird way). I AM HOOKED. It is rather grisly but it’s quite enthralling.

What have you gotten up to this weekend?

What TV shows are you hooked on right now? Do you have a particular genre you go for?

Calf raises: yes or no??

Hill running, Nike gear and keeping things interesting

I can’t quite believe what I’ve signed up to this weekend…camping and running at Ultra 12.

I’m not a great camper. And it’s not because I’m particularly high maintenance and “omg dirt” but it’s because I like my creature comforts and routine. A good night’s sleep, feeling warm and having a somewhat unlimited kitchen full of food. And not only this but I’m heading to Bristol Friday night to visit friends and have a BBQ before leaving for Ultra 12 on Saturday afternoon. So I have a lot to think about when packing, especially as I plan on doing the Bristol Little Stoke parkrun Saturday morning as well. Hmmm. In true Anna style, let’s make things really complicated and as difficult as possible!

On the plus side though, Little Stoke parkrun is apparently super flat and only a mile from my friends’ house. Thankfully my friends know what I’m like and don’t think I’m weird for dashing out in the morning to go to parkrun (these are the friends I went to Orlando with).

I’m not sure really how Ultra12 is going to go though. Running multiple laps throughout the night with gaps in between…I’m nervous to say the least. I recovered really well after my half on Sunday and felt good running Tuesday evening.

Post run selfie Right pic: Stretching my calves on the stairs at work post-run

The run went really well. It’s my usual hilly 5.3 miles round where I work.

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It includes one really nasty hill (12% incline for 0.2 miles) that I do twice, once at the beginning and once at the end. There’s a Strava segment for it and my last PB for running that segment was back in April so I was really chuffed to find I finally beat it (only by 2 seconds mind you)!

image I’m a Strava stats geek and proud!

It was tough, but I do love my hill runs. I’ve found it’s really good at improving my form, building strength in my legs and strength in my mind. The lactic acid build-up is quite intense but keeping your mind focused on powering up and keeping your form good (high knees, pushing off strong through your glutes and your eye line ahead not down) helps keep your mind off the pain…sort of.

I was able to test drive my new running gear that I bought as well. I’m a self-confessed Nike addict so I couldn’t help but indulge in some sales a bit on sportshoes.com (not an affiliated link, I just like their website and they have good deals).

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I always trust Nike to be of good quality and long-lasting. The shorts are very comfortable, don’t ride up and have an inner lining. Also there’s a small zipped pocket at the back which is handy. The yellow top is also nice fitting and feels very dry when wearing it, despite the recent humidity. The other items I haven’t tried yet (though the black top is exactly the same as the yellow).

I’ve still been maintaining my 2-3 times a week gym visits as well. The new gym renovation has made the gym a slightly more exciting place (OK less dull) with a lot more weights, space and the stepper machine (apparently called “Jacob’s ladder”, thanks Autumn).

IMG_2286There’s the face of someone really happy to be there 😉

I’ve also been playing around with the self-timer camera on my phone because gym selfies can be a bit samey! Plus I think it’s cool 😉 I can also see when my form is appalling (bottom left photo my arm is far from underneath my shoulder, not good!).

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I suppose it’s quite lucky I’m at the gym so early as I guess self-timing photo taking is not normal gym behaviour…but then these days, what is?? I’ve seem some very funny things at the gym.

I do my harder gym routine either Thursday morning or Friday morning now rather than Monday, like I used to, as I’ve been finding by doing it Monday it ruins my legs for my hill session Tuesday. My Thursday night run is now with the running club so it’s far more social and less about a specific pace so it doesn’t matter if my legs ache a bit. My harder strength routine usually includes deadlifts and squats which I’ve been consistently upping the weights on and I always, always ache the next day. I also hate it but it’s a necessary evil for me to avoid injury (*touch wood*).

But I find it sooo dull and hard to get excited about. In efforts to make things more interesting I’ve been listening to the Game of Thrones unofficial podcast (Cast of Kings) while I’m there after Chelsea recommended it and I’m addicted. I read the GoT books but a couple of years ago so my memory is fuzzy (and the books are unbelievably dense with a zillion characters – you think the programme is hard to keep track of all the different people, ha!) so the podcast is great for inside knowledge and analysis of what’s going on. I’m a self-confessed geek, I won’t deny it. So listening to it alongside working my way through season five is great (I’ve got two episodes left – how scary was that seen with the white walkers!? I watched that before I went to sleep and it freaked me out).

Anyway, if anyone has any great tips for making things exciting at the gym…let me know! 😉 Or running an all-night event…good grief.

What podcasts, if any, do you listen to?

Are you a Game of Thrones fan?

Where do you buy your gym/running gear and what’s your preferred brand?

Time For Marathon Training

How quickly a holiday fades from your memory and real life takes over…I am fully back into the swing of life. And jeeze how cold does it suddenly feel UK people? My tan is being replaced by goose bumps.

I’m going to save my second part of my Mexico recap till next week if you don’t mind (check out my recap HERE and the amazing food I enjoyed HERE). I thought instead I’d catch you up with what I’ve been up to post-holiday.

So it is approximately 11 weeks until Marathon Time. I am doing the Portsmouth Coastal marathon on December 22nd. I am getting my head and training into gear. I’ll share my plan with you guys once I’ve perfected it. I’m basing it on several different plans and moulding into what I think will work well for me.

It’s all trial and error really as I’m a marathon newbie. But I know what works well with half marathon training and hey they’re similar right? Can’t be that much different, right…? Ha. No seriously, I know myself and when I like to run, the types of runs that work well and also what races I have planned. I don’t like to rigidly stick to a generic plan. It would never work for me. I’m also fully preparing myself to change it as I go. Flexibility is key here I think!

I’ll go into more detail later, but it’s going to be a pretty standard plan!

Marathon training

In a nutshell: running 4-5 times a week, the long runs going no higher than 20 miles, I’ll be balancing things with spinning and will also always stretch and foam roll after running.

Last weekend I went to my first Parkrun (weekly local 5k timed run) since getting back. Wowza it was tough. Having done no speed work over my holiday I found it quite tough. I decided to run the 4 miles there at a casual pace (7.45mins/mile) as a warm-up. I know from experience that my body needs to have that warm-up before attempting any serious speed work or racing. Then when I get there I do a lot of dynamic stretches (see THIS video for some of the stuff I try to incorporate – not all of it as otherwise I look like a berk Winking smile at home I do a lot of these though).

The Parkrun itself went well. I told myself just to go with however I felt when I started running. It was quite reassuring to look at my watch and see my pace considering the whole time in Mexico was like running through treacle. Mentally I needed that reassurance that I hadn’t fully lost it.

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Though I will say that we were on the flat course (there’s a choice of two courses – one with a hill you do three times and then this one). So I know after a few more weeks back into normal running I could be faster on this course as this was only a few seconds from my PB from the hilly course. Well, fingers crossed anyway!

On a non-running related note, Saturday afternoon we watched Wreck-It Ralf. Watch immediately, it is hilarious.

Wreck-It Ralph

As Ben is a keen gamer and I used to be, this really went down well with us. But I’d say it could appeal to the masses easily.

Sunday I decided to get stuck in and do my furthest mileage yet: 14 miles. I stuck a podcast in my ears and just went out at a nice and easy pace. I tried to make sure I stuck to around 8.30mins/mile as this is roughly where my longer runs should be sitting.

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It was tough but not overly tough. In my head I said if at 11-12miles if I wasn’t feeling it or felt too tired I’d cut it short. But at 12 miles I was feeling very good and decided to go for it. Luckily I have a route where you can tag on extra miles or cut things short.

The rest of the day involves not much else! HOLD THE BOAT. I forgot to tell you. I am OBSESSED with the Great British Bake Off. For those who don’t live in Britain or, like me a few weeks ago, lived blissfully unaware of this TV programme, let me explain.

Great-British-Bake-Off

It’s a competition where 13 (very talented) contestants have a to bake an array of different cakes and show different baking skills (seriously tricky baking skills – when I say tricky I mean not tricky for me which is generally weighing ingredients out and mixing them). I’m not even doing it justice. It’s just so good. And also just emphasises how truly appalling my baking is!

Though I did attempt some baking the other day to take into work. Double chocolate chip and oat and raisins (I didn’t make a note of the recipes, I think I just googled them! Nothing hugely crazy or spectacular about them).

Anna's cookies

But they came out OK and that is a thumbs up in my eyes. And they were gone by the end of the day. Happy days.

This weekend I’m randomly running a half marathon. Ben and me signed up last minute as it’s a league race with our club and we thought “what the hell”. Though I will not be racing it, I will use it as a long run.

And I have some very exciting running-related news that I’ll share with you soon! I literally am so excited. It’s sad how excited I am but it’s true.

Have a great weekend everyone!

What are your plans this weekend?

The Great British Bake Off – do you watch it? What other food-related programmes do you indulge in? The Food Network is like my mecca.

Have you run a marathon? Do you have any wise tips and tricks to share?

What good films have you seen lately?

Positives and negatives

Happy Friday! We made it – almost time for the weekend. And apparently a wet and windy one for the UK. Joy of joys.

Yesterday was a slightly different day as I was working from home. There were several positives and negatives in my day so I thought I’d base my post around that theme.

Positive: No commute in the morning. Bliss. Also, getting up at 8am is heavenly. I think I had a full 10 hours sleep.

Negative: I was really sleepy and reluctant to actually get out of bed. Can’t I work from bed? No. I needed to get up, showered and downstairs at our table to get into ‘work mode’.

Positive: I had Cougar Town on in the background as I worked. I am so addicted. I think I love every single character. They’re hilarious. Also 20 minute episodes are perfect chunks.

Negative: I had to keep pausing Cougar Town when I needed to concentrate and think. I would have loved to have just sat there watching the TV all day but I actually have work to do and it required a bit of brain power. Boo.

Positive: Unlimited access to all food.

Negative: Unlimited access to all food. Thankfully I had our weekly food shop delivered later in the day so we were a bit bare on the snacks until the afternoon. Then a huge watermelon came into my life.

Watermelon snacks

And then there was some serious watermelon massacre…Watermelon massacre

I couldn’t stop. It was so good.

Positive: I got loads of chores done in between working. Putting the washing on, hanging it up, etc. I love feeling doubly efficient..

Negative: Alfie giving me his big old furry “walk time?” eyes. All. Day. Long. No Alfie, you just have to go in the garden I’m afraid.

Positive: I had running club in the evening which was great because it meant I didn’t have to rush home and have a mad dash to get ready. I could even prepare dinner for when I got back (Ben was working late so it was just me for dinner). I could just shut down my laptop and amble upstairs leisurely.

I was quite nervous about running club as I hadn’t run since Sunday (all part of the ‘easier’ week). I was just terrified of any pain or discomfort. But I started running and it was great! Towards the end of the run my groin was slightly achy and I could feel it going downhill but otherwise I felt quite strong.

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I got to the meeting spot to find my usual group flagging on numbers. In the end it was two speedy guys and me. It wasn’t too tough and we took it easy in the middle as it’s now a lot darker in the evening and we were running through some woods and had to be careful of footing. I managed to push it on my own for the last mile as I headed home.

Positive: I got to wear my new high vis’ arm band. It’s got LED lights all round it that you can turn on. Brilliant for the winter. One of the guys said it looked cool

Negative: That same guy said it looked cool…just like a Christmas tree. Excellent.

The run really helped me feel more confident for my goal pace for the half marathon on Sunday. Basically I’m going to aim for a certain pace (comfortable but not completely easy) and then as I hit 9 miles see what I think of pushing it a bit more. Who knows. I’ll see how it goes.

I’ve ummed and arr’ed about taking my hydration belt but I think I’m just going to go ‘naked’ (there’s an image!) and if I need water pick it up at the drinks stations (of which there are plenty). I don’t think I’ll need any gels either, but there are some available there.

After the run I got home and ate a mammoth meal of stir fry veg, chicken, butternut squash, courgette (zucchini) noodles, chicken and cream cheese.

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You know when you go from starving to full really quickly? Yep I felt that quite strongly last night!

So tomorrow I’m off to Bristol to see friends, and then it’s the half marathon on Sunday…duh duh DUH (<– dramatic music, if you didn’t get that…)

What are your plans this weekend?

Do you switch up your work out gear for winter? Any high vis’ lovers out there?

Water, gels…how do you fuel during races? Unless it’s hot I won’t bother, maybe just water from the stations. Gels only if it’s really tough. I’ll have had a good breakfast so I’ll be fine.