My trip to Llandudno and a Christmas party

Life lately has been so good. I know I’m probably a broken record on this front but I’m very happy right now. Running is going well. I’m loving my job. I have a solid group of friends who continually make me smile every day. Life is indeed good.

I’ve just got back from Llandudno, seeing my grandparents, and instead of the usual “oh god it’s back to work” I was actually quite happy to go back. Not necessarily as happy about the super early morning, but you can’t win them all.IMG_1646Spending the four-ish days in Llandudno was lovely. Unfortunately my grandad wasn’t his usual energetic and fighting fit self due to an ongoing cough he couldn’t shift, but it was nice to be there anyway. Though he did go on an epic 5.4 mile walk with my dad around the Great Orme while I was out doing my long run on the Monday morning. I mean, as you do when you’re almost 84 right??My 15 mile long run was great. It was very icy and frosty but it was nice to get out in some different scenery. To make life easier I used a 5.6 mile loop that my grandparents had marked out for me (on proper maps, with elevation charts and everything!). This was handy because it meant if the roads were too dangerous I wasn’t going to be too far away from their house to stop.Llandudno runIt also felt a bit easier in my head mentally to think I was doing two-three loops rather than 15 miles. It was a great route because it went from one coast to the other, so you got to the see the sea twice which is always a win in my book.IMG_1697I didn’t have any choice but to wear my shorts as I hadn’t packed any leggings with me (I live in Anna La La Land where I don’t consider any negative prospects ahead, just everything running smoothly and the sun perpetually shining). But actually my legs were fine. It was my the tops of my ears and my fingers that suffered. I was wearing my Nike gloves and they’re still quite thin so my hands got really cold. I ended up pulling my sleeves down over them too. I made sure to  stop a couple of times to take some photos – it was so beautiful (with or without snow, really) that I had to.
Snowy LlandudnoThe first lap was good because I was new to the route and had to double-check my carefully written out paper instructions to ensure I was going to the right way, which helped pass the time. The second lap I just zoned out as I knew where to go. When it came to finishing the second lap I was at over 11 miles I didn’t fancy doing another lap as it would make my long run too far (almost 17 miles) and I really couldn’t be bothered. Instead I started the third lap but turned around when I hit the golf club, which we’d walked to the day before and I knew was 2 miles, so there and back would get me to my 15 miles. Perfect.
15 milesThe rest of the time in North Wales was good old fashioned family time. Lots of walking, quality quiz time (I love a quiz) and good food. My grandparents eat really healthily and light so the only indulgences were when we ate out for food (we had an Indian and a Christmas meal) or when I bought a chocolate drenched waffle at the Christmas market…IMG_1802Some thing have to be done. We also did a fun walk around Llandudno to find all the different Alice in Wonderland statues (called the “Alice Trail”). I love stuff like this.IMG_1799Then I was back at work on the Thursday, just in time for our Christmas do. It was at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which was rather fancy and meant I could put on a sparkly dress.IMG_1868The event only cost £5 and we got a drink on arrival, half a bottle of wine, two drinks tokens and a three course meal. I mean, that’s not too shabby at all! I got myself all glamorous (well, as glam as I can really) and enjoyed a fun evening of food and dancing. IMG_1871I did drink but not to excess as I had work the next day (and not to mention a marathon the following weekend). I’m actually not a huge drinker. I don’t mind getting a bit tiddly but I hate the feeling of wanting to be sick or the room spinning, which inevitably happens after drinking too much. The dinner was great (even more so because my friend and I got to split someone else’s meals between us as they hadn’t shown up). And the pudding was a pudding BAR. I will unashamedly say I returned after my first selection for more. I must have eaten about nine different selections (tiffin, rocky road, mince pie shortbread (!), blondies…). I mean, to be fair they were quite small.Historic Dockyard Christmas partyAnyway it was a really fun evening. It was nice to have a Christmas party with people who were around my own age. However, it did make for getting up on the Friday morning somewhat tricky. Luckily though everyone who’d been just as foolish as me not to take a day off or a half-day was in the same boat, so I wasn’t alone in my grogginess at work!

I’m working most of Christmas (except the Bank Holidays) but I don’t really mind as everyone is so jolly and festive. Plus I have a holiday to Dubai in January to look forward to. I’ll have my Portsmouth Coastal Marathon recap coming soon! Spoiler: I finished and I’m not injured 😀

Did you have a work Christmas party?

Do you run in the snow?

Do you cope well with being hungover?

Tooting Common parkrun and the Harry Potter escape room

On Saturday I headed to the Tooting Common parkrun in London. This meant another early morning catching the 6.39am train.

Luckily it wasn’t ridiculously cold, but it was still fairly chilly. I was in my running gear plus a jumper (which I’d wear later after the run) and a big winter jacket with a fresh travel mug of coffee to take with me. I was going to meet my friends at 11 after parkrun for some escape room fun (more on that later) so I had a big bag with me as well full of a spare set of clothes, baby wipes, deodorant etc. The best you can do when you don’t have a shower!

On the train I chilled with my iPad watching Mudbound (really good film!) and my coffee. But in the back of my mind I was feeling a little stressed. The thing is, the parkrun I’d chosen wasn’t exactly the quickest one to get to. It was about 20 or so minutes on the tube and then a mile from the tube station. And as my train didn’t get in until 8.23am I was cutting it fine. Not only this but the tube I absolutely needed to get in order to get there in time was the 8.28 one. GAH. I could have made life so much easier on myself by choosing a parkrun that was a little closer to Waterloo, but I wanted to get another letter done for my alphabet parkrun challenge. There are no easy ‘T’s around where I live so this was perfect (I say “perfect” loosely here).

As the train pulled into the station I was like a runner at the start of an Olympic race, I was ready to go go go. As soon as the doors opened I leapt out and stormed it down to the barrier and then out down to the tube. My big bag didn’t help but I had to just move quickly. I thankfully got on the right tube and then was just left catching my breath and standing around for the next sprint. It’s amazing how stressed you can get just standing around waiting and not being able to do anything. The train arrived at almost 10 to and I raced out. I had a map screenshotted on my phone and had memorised the roads I needed to know. I saw another runner running from the tube so assumed I was in good company as they headed in the same direction as me. Though it was slightly awkward as I was running just behind them like some stalker girl.I remember running past a really nice coffee/cake shop and thinking “ooh” and then “FOCUS ANNA”. I got to the Tooting Bec Commons where the parkrun would take place and saw a number of runners. I asked one girl who was running if she was heading to parkrun and she said no. This stumped me a little as I just assume anyone running near to a parkrun would do it! Luckily though I could see a crowd of people in the distance and the welcoming signs of high-vis.I arrived with a few minutes to spare, so quickly stripped off my jacket and jumper and dumped my bag on a big canvas sheet that had been laid out especially for this purpose. I’d done a little bit of research beforehand and knew the course was flat and three laps, but also that it was narrow at points so if you wanted a speedy run you needed to be near the front. This always makes me nervous as “speedy” is so subjective. But I DID want a good time (for me) so tried to position myself in a spot that was behind the clearly very speedy types (you can always recognise them) and in front of the more casual runners. It’s a hard judgement and I was sure I’d probably get overtaken but there we go, you just have to guess!

I got my music sorted (always a requirement for a fast run for me) and then we were off. Tooting Common parkrun is run mostly on tarmac and basically in a triangle. The first bit you run down a path to get onto the “triangle” that you do three laps of. This starts as a long tarmac path, which is great for getting the speed up and finding your place in the crowd. Then you make a fairly sharp turn onto a more mud/compacted trail path. This felt *very* slightly uphill but I might be imagining it. Then you turn left again and run down a nice flat straight of tarmac. The first lap felt quite comfortable (comfortably tough I hasten to add). The second lap begun and I felt the effort of maintaining the speed (around 6.40min/miles) start to become tough. I remember starting to notice more of the course on this lap as the first lap was a complete blur. Like, oh look there’s a nice pond, a children’s play area and nice trees. The marshals, as always, were really energetic and friendly in their support. I tried to thank them all verbally or give a thumbs up as I passed – even if you’re going for a time, they deserve it because they’re standing in the cold! I also feel like they gave me a lot of cheers and support as they could see my gurning face and pain train grimace.

The third lap I managed to overtake a girl who’d been in front of me for a while but had to stop and stretch her calf, then I was on the heels of a guy who was running the same pace. He started looking behind him and then guiding me through other people and giving me the odd encouraging comment. I could barley respond. As the songs changed to the next one on my iPhone I could hear my gasping breath. Not a fun noise it must be said. I managed to drop the last lap to 6.30min/mile and was literally counting down the 0.1s to the end. I saw a girl just ahead of me ask which way to go as we finished out last lap of the triangle and saw we turned off to the right to head to the funnel. I was glad she asked as I hadn’t a clue! As I saw the funnel ahead and made my final sprint I genuinely thought I was about to hurl. That horrible, horrible feeling of almost being sick because you’re trying so hard is awful and one of the main reasons I hate short distance running. You don’t get that in a marathon (or at least the way I run a marathon!). I crossed the finishing funnel in 20:17 (but actually 20:18 officially and second female) with the contents of my stomach still thankfully inside.It took me about five solid minutes to get myself together though. I was absolutely rinsed. I was OVER THE MOON though. My third fastest parkrun (20:06 being my PB and 20:17 from Chelmsford parkrun so many years ago). I couldn’t have given anymore. But it does give me encouragement that a sub-20 minute parkrun might be achievable before the end of the year. As long as I remain uninjured and healthy!I caught my breath and then found my stuff and put my jacket back on as I started getting cold again. As I cheerfully walked back to the tube I noticed that cake shop again (called Crepes and Cakes by Nazish Omar – very nice indeed). Well, it would be rude not to! So I popped in and bought myself a very nice looking slice of rainbow cake. A little “well done me” present. I didn’t eat it then though as I wasn’t quite ready for solids yet 😉 (Actually I haven’t eaten it yet at all because of later foods. It’s safe in my freezer though for a day in need. My parkrun rainbow cake).From there I headed to Liverpool Street on the tube (smiling like a Cheshire cat, looking a bit of a loon in my short shorts it must be said). I had a bit of time before I met my friends so I scoped around for a coffee shop where I could grab a warm drink and a loo to change in. After walking around for ages – so many places closed! – I finally found somewhere that looked ideal. I was cold and really hungry by this point and saw they did fresh porridge, I was sold! Unfortunately after I ordered a coffee and the porridge I found they didn’t have a toilet. Great. Oh well.Anyway I ate the lovely steaming porridge before meeting with the first friend who’d arrived. We found a Costa and I managed to get changed there. Suitably attired for our Harry Potter themed escape room 😉 (Terrible loo selfie there, apologies).

With two more of my friends we got to the Enigma Escape Rooms for what has to be described as the most awesome escape room we’ve done yet (this was our fourth). If you like Harry Potter and like this sort of clue-based puzzle room thing it is definitely for you! It was SO much fun. You’re not actually locked in in this one, it’s more about passing the different classes (e.g. Potions, History of Magic, etc.). God it was awesome. We had put ourselves into the different houses and were wearing our corresponding t-shirts (I’m in Griffindor).We also managed to do the escape room without any clues (these rooms can actually be quite tough and in the previous ones we’ve done we’ve had to ask for help) and finished with 11 minutes to spare. We got a special little wristband thing because we didn’t need any clues and an “Outstanding” level of achievement in our overall OWL (right, I know I sound like a loser right now but I DON’T CARE).After this we headed to the Strut and Cluck where we met the final friend for a lovely lunch. I had a pulled turkey shawarma which was just delicious. It was a little small in my usual portion sizes so I ordered some bread and pita to go with it. But for normal appetites it would be fine.
Obviously an occasion like this will always require pudding so we headed to Shoreditch, not too far away, where the Boxpark is. Apparently this is the world’s first ever pop-up mall. It was very quirky. In fact, it was full of people so hipster it made my teeth hurt. Like you know if you ever walk into Topshop and you see a lot of the clothing and think “who on earth would wear this?”, well pretty much everyone in Shoreditch. It was quite a fun place to look around. It was full of quirky vegan eateries, street-food and, yes, lots of dessert spots. We first went into the Dum Dum Donutterie.After seeing so many cool artisan doughnuts on Instagram and always being so sad they’re always in London I was chuffed to finally see some amazing looking donuts. It was tough to choose but I went for the salted caramel one – I mean, technically it was a “cronut”. It was very dense.
Then, as not everyone wanted a doughnut, we headed to Nosteagia, which is a Hong Kong themed dessert bar (not sure if this is the right term but whatever) which made “bubble waffles”. Basically waffles full of deliciousness. One friend went for a Nutella one and another friend went for a peanut butter themed one, whereas I went for a honeycomb one.Yes, I know. I just couldn’t decide between the doughnut and this. In my head I was sure I’d eat half of each. Hummm.I started with the waffle which was delicious. The waffle itself wasn’t that sweet, but the ice cream, cream, popcorn and salted caramel sauce made it the ultimate pudding. After having about half I decided to try the doughnut. I’m actually not a huge doughnut fan (I really don’t like the jam-filled ones that are predominately popular in the UK) but this was no simple doughnut. It was dense and delicious, a bit like a very dense cake. SO good. (Un)fortunately though, both puddings were far too good to not eat the entirety of. I’m just far too greedy for my own good and finished them both. I’m not even mad. Life is too short to not eat the good stuff. Memories not calories 😉

And then I headed home. It was a lovely, lovely Saturday full of my favourite things 🙂

What did you get up to at the weekend?

Do you like Harry Potter? Which house would you put yourself in?

What pudding would you have gone for?