Things I’ve Been Loving Lately – October/November

So we’ve almost survived Lockdown 2.0, hurrah!

Christmas is just around the corner and I’m feeling positive for 2021. Here’s what I’ve been enjoying recently.

MINI Runner’s Gift Box

The lovely people from Adventusaur sent me one of their personalised running letterbox hampers which I think is just the sweetest and fun idea.

Basically it’s a little box full of handy running essentials. It’s such a great gift to send someone before a big race they’re about to do. It contains things like Vaseline (we’ve all been there…), a gel, Haribo (of course), a protein bar (handy for post-race recovery), amongst other items.

They’re a small up and coming business so I really hope people go for this sort of thing. During these COVID times it’s nice to be able to send someone something like this if you can’t actually see them. I guess it doesn’t even have to be for a race – but someone new to running as like a starter pack for them.

Free Train

I’m a big fan of taking my phone out with me on a run – whether for listening to music or a podcast or for the standard mid-run selfie/photo.

This is a very secure way to carry your phone and what’s handy is that you can fish it out very easily on the move, or if you want to stop.

I do love a running belt and the Koala Clip I have that attaches  to my sports bra, but it’s tricky to get my phone out easily if I want to quickly change a song or whatever. It feels super secure, doesn’t bounce and didn’t rub. It’s a great idea!

Floreseca Dried Flowers

I saw this on Instagram and just fell in love with their dried flowers. I’ve become a big fan of flowers in general but they never last long (obviously). However dried flowers obviously last a lot longer. And I knew they were about to launch their Christmas collection. They’re a small business so sell out quickly so I set my alarm for when they were launching and managed to snag myself a one of their Winter arrangements.

Ahhh they’re so beautiful! Love our sparkly and Christmassy they are, but not overly in your face Christmasssy, you know? I could potentially leave them up after Christmas – so very much worth their money!

Care packages

My amazingly talented baker (and runner) friend Emma sent me the sweetest care package recently.

It contained one of her freshly baked sourdough loaves, brownies and a GIANT 1kg bag of peanut M&M’s.

This was such a lovely thoughtful gift! I will have to show great restraint not to eat too many M&M’s in one sitting though haha.

Hello Fresh

So I’m back on the Hello Fresh train again. I really do love it. Previously I’d find myself scouring the Internet for recipes and wondering what to cook every week night for Kyle and I. I wanted healthy, filling and tasty but I was finding we were just falling into boring routines and bad habits. And takeaways, while I do love them so, were becoming easier to just fall back to if we’d had a particularly tough day.

Now we have three guaranteed week night meals of healthy, exciting and very tasty meals. I thoroughly enjoy cooking and this is just perfect. I love listening to a podcast while I prepare dinner. And then Kyle and I will sit down to something new and see what we think.

Most of the time we love the meals, occassionally (though it’s rare) we’re a bit “meh” (there was a Mexican tostada meal that didn’t float our boat for example) but we always enjoy trying them regardless and always feel full and happy. There nice and balanced too. It’s made my week far less stressful now! I also like that the company is very eco-focused too.

If you’d like to get £20 your first week you can use my link HERE (I get money off as well then too FYI).

Bare Grill’s Smokehouse and Mrs Potts

A few weeks ago I saw two of my close uni friends and we went out for an epic lunch at Bare Grills in Bristol. It was GIANT and exactly the type of meal I love. BBQ ribs, pulled pork, smoked sausage, chicken wings and brisket with a mountain of deliciously seasoned chips. It was epic!

How we then had room to go to Mrs Potts for dessert I have no idea. It was a good job that we had to queue for a 10-15 mins to get a seat though. It’s a very popular café in Bristol and serves so much chocolate-related items, like hot chocolate made from melted chocolate, brownies, cookies, cake… it’s incredible.

I went for a brownie hot chocolate and took away a slice of cake (with a pot of melted chocolate to drizzle over), a stuffed cookie and a white chocolate rocky road.

Kyle and I shared and the cake and cookie later that evening after I’d gotten home (and made space!). They were absolutely divine. The cookie was definitely the best out of the bunch but the cake with the chocolate over it was incredible too.

Caithness Paperweight

My grandad who lives in Stoke-On-Trent sent Kyle and I such a lovely present. He called it a “glass dump” which just doesn’t do justice to the beauty of the gift. I guess it’s a kind of paperweight, but it’s basically a unique hand-crafted glass ornament.

It’s such a gorgeous gift and will sit proudly in our house. I do worry about my grandad living alone in Stoke in this horrible time but I ring him regularly. He does so much volunteering which had to stop during the lockdowns so I worry he’s a bit out of sorts, but he seems in good spirits. He has such a positive and happy outlook to life.

So here’s to just as happy a December 🙂

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Free Train and Adventusaur for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

How we’re surviving Lockdown 2.0

My blog has been a little neglected recently. It’s hard to find things to consistently post about when realistically nothing is happening.

I’m sure we’re all feeling this. In the running community, there are no races and no parkruns. And in the wider setting, with lockdown 2.0, you can’t go anywhere or do anything (again).

(I will stress that I’m hugely grateful that the lockdowns haven’t personally affected me in a big way and my complaints are very much “first world problems”).

For running, it’s hard to create any goals when we still don’t know what 2021 is going to look like. Since my first lockdown marathon in April, I’ve just been running intuitively in that I run what I fancy when I fancy. I mean arguably this is generally how I run anyway as I’m not a big PB hunter and never follow any firm and hard plans. However I do usually have a marathon in the plan to aim for so tend to have a build-up of miles and then a peak, then recovery and then we go again.

I’m very grateful that during this year I’ve managed to run three marathons, one official. I mean I know I am very lucky to have achieved these, but now it’s hard to know what to do. What to aim for. I thought I’d definitely have the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon at the end of December but as that’s been cancelled I’m now a bit lost.

Each weekend I seem to just randomly pick a long run distance and see how I feel… I feel good? Run a bit more or run a bit faster. Don’t feel as good? Slow it down or run less. There are minimal pressures in my running life right now other than slight feelings of mediocrity and lack of purpose. Injury-wise its pretty good because I’m not trying to squeeze in another marathon or pushing the mileage. And I’m being super consistent with my strength routines, despite not being at the gym anymore. Because I don’t spend as long on my strength workouts as I would have done at the gym I prioritise the stuff that I know works and keeps injuries at bay (touch wood).

So in way my running is generally been quite consistent with very few niggles. Compared to last year when I had two major injuries that knocked me out of the running game for months, this year has been pretty plain sailing. Maybe a few calf niggles here or there but nothing that has really stopped me running or caused me major issue.

But running is something which is helping me mentally. Keeping fit, staying healthy, getting outside, doing something I enjoy. It’s part of my weekly routine. And if lockdown has taught me anything it’s the necessity of a routine to stop me going slowly mad.

What also helps is that Kyle and I have something each week to look forward to. Or a few things. So Friday night is always takeaway night and we tend to get something a bit more exciting than the standard Indian or pizza affair.

Chicken loaded fries

We try and choose something local but a bit crazy (I say “crazy” lightly because in all honestly it’s not crazy at all but times are tough to reach the lofty pre-COVID excitement heights).

Crispy lemon chicken wings

We’ve been enjoying lots of hot dogs, chicken burgers, chicken wings of all varieties (of course) and loaded, dirty fries. While of course we’d love to actually go out for dinner or lunch, getting food delivered is the next best thing. And eating in your comfy clothes in the comfort of your own home is pretty damn good too.

Lockdown roasts on a Sunday help too 😉

Perfecting my roast potatoes…

Going forward? Well, I’ve run out of steam a bit for another lockdown marathon. I’m just going to continue to run whatever I fancy and just take each week as it comes. After all, a lot can happen in a few months! A lot can change.

How are you surviving?

Are you ordering more takeaways?

How do you stay motivated with your running?

Running a marathon just for the hell of it

During these weird times I’m grasping at anything to keep my running feeling fresh and to keep it from feeling samey.

So when my friend, Emma, said that she was going to be running the Virtual New York Marathon at the end of October and mentioned I could join her if I fancied, I jumped at it. My running lately has been feeling so meh and flat. It’s not that I’ve lost motivation it’s just that I don’t know what I’m doing, if that makes sense? What mileage should I be running? What goal am I aiming for? I’m not training for anything. Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in December has been cancelled and I’m a bit bereft. (As I’m sure so many others are as well).

On Friday evening after work I drove up to Reading and stayed with Emma and her family ready to run the marathon the next day. She had a route more or less planned and we decided to head out at 8am the next day. That evening she had chicken and pasta and I had a delicious vegetarian pizza. I know it’s crazy but I really cannot stand pasta!

The next morning we got up early. I had some porridge and a black coffee (my standard) and we waited a bit to digest before getting ready to start.

I wasn’t feeling that nervous. Without sounding arrogant or blasé, Emma was aiming for around a four hour marathon with a pace of 9-10min/mile, which is quite relaxed for me.

My training up to this point hadn’t really been optimal for another marathon but I felt confident I would be OK. Of course, the distance is always hard regardless of the pace you run so I knew not to be too chilled about it.

The weather was due to be pretty grim as well. It wasn’t raining as we set off but we knew it would come at some point. As we started, while it was quite windy, it was mild which was nice and made me wonder if my long sleeve jacket was a mistake (spoiler: it wasn’t). We had a few loops around the immediate location of where Emma lived, round some country roads, and we kept it nice and relaxed chatting away. It’s always nice to see Emma and while we catch up most weeks via phone, it was nice to see her in person and have a long chatty run. It was also nice to run in a very country-esque location and pretty much carless roads.

It was really quite easy to keep my pace nice and relaxed – something I had been a little worried about. I didn’t want to speed up and push Emma without realising. But we kept to the goal pace.

As we headed into Reading at around mile 11, Emma said she needed a quick toilet break so we popped into Costa (we’d brought our masks just in case we needed to do this thankfully).

As we came back out the rain had started in earnest and having stopped running for a few minutes my legs were a bit stiff getting going again and I was a little chilly. Thankfully as we got going I got warm again.

We then started running alongside the Thames River and the rain properly started hammering down. The more stable pathing turned into more of a trail route and the rain and leaves on the ground made that a little precarious.

I had visions of slipping and falling into the river – thankfully this never happened! As we ran alongside the river we saw several people getting ready for what looked like a boat regatta with their bibs on.

While running through the wind and rain I was certainly more happy to be running through the rain than rowing through it on the water! It just looked so grim. We did get some grim smiles from the few supporters along the bank. Everyone just looked so thoroughly soaked – as we were too of course. But looking at this point we weren’t cold.

So we continued running alongside the water until we got to the end of the road, as it were, where a gate blocked our way. And so we turned around and headed back the way we’d come. This had always been the plan but I think Emma thought that the path might have gone on a little longer. At this point we were almost at 17 miles. My legs felt a little tired but otherwise I was OK. I did have a slight dip in motivation when I considered how much longer we still had to run and be wet in the rain. The rain was just so relentless it really was quite tedious.

As we headed back down the path we’d come down, the rain had created more and more puddles and we had to do some strategic running and jumping to get through. We continued running further down the Thames to get to around 20 miles and Emma started to struggle a bit with some pains in her hip.

I tried to keep her mind off it by talking about stupid things but it was a struggle as the weather was really killing our vibe. Emma stopped a few times and I started to get colder. I needed to keep running to stay warm, but equally I didn’t want to put pressure on Emma, especially if she was in pain. She kindly said I could run ahead for a bit.

As we got to 22 miles we stopped again and Emma was clearly struggling a fair amount – the rain, the wind, her painful hip and general fatigue – and we needed to find four more miles. We decided to keep running loops around the area we were in – up and down the Thames, round near to the shops a bit and back. It was a little tedious but every mile ticked off the end got closer.

In terms of how my legs felt, they were good. They were tired but no niggles and I didn’t feel that tired in myself. I wanted to stretch my legs out a bit but I knew increasing my pace wouldn’t help Emma finish any faster. I did run ahead a few times so I could sprint back to her to allow my legs to stretch a bit – as my cadence was slower than if I’d been running my usual pace. It helped keep me warm as well. I had to check with Emma a couple of times regarding how much she had left as obviously my watch wasn’t accurate due to my extra running ahead and back.

We got near to where her parents would be picking us up (I was now over 26.4 miles so stopped my watch), Emma was almost there and I ran ahead so I could cheer her in to the imaginary finish.

Then we were done. Soaked and tired but done!

Emma’s parents were incredible. The car was lovely and warm, they had towels for us and big hoodies for us to get into and it was just GLORIOUS. I was so cold by this point and utterly, utterly drenched through I was just glad to be out of the rain.

Emma’s watch time was 4:18:52. I’m not sure what her official time was (we did stop our watches when we stopped – I know there are several  opinions about this). But anyway, she was very happy with her time – as she should be.

I had the most gloriously hot (scalding really) shower and a cup of tea and felt a million times better. The marathon itself wasn’t hard per se as the pace was very comfortable for me. But running for longer than I’m used to did make it fairly tiring. I found at times that I wanted to run faster to stretch my legs and it was mentally tough trying to support someone who was struggling a little at the end. Like there’s nothing you can say to help them but just be there and push as much as you can. You wish you could run the miles for them and seeing Emma in a bit of pain at the end was hard. This makes it sound like I’m being smug and that it was easy. It wasn’t easy. It was just very different and hard in different ways.

Emma and I celebrated with a delicious lunch at a little garden centre café. I opted for the rather delicious (and different for me) lentil salad with another pot of tea. So tasty and warming.

And of course later we had a Doughnut Time doughnut to really celebrate 😉 They were the Halloween specials and very tasty. Then it was an Indian takeaway for dinner and a very early night!

I thoroughly enjoyed running the marathon with Emma. And just before Lockdown 2.0! Not sure what next is planned for my running though…

Have you ever run a marathon with a friend?

What’s your celebratory food of choice?

Kyle’s birthday, all the food and a fantastic long run

It was Kyle’s birthday last week so we decided to take a few days off of work so we could relax a bit more and enjoy ourselves.

I mean, with the pandemic and all it was hard to really go anywhere properly but we’d been given a free night’s stay at our gym’s hotel (it’s a hotel first, gym second) so we decided to use it on the Thursday night and let our hair down a bit. To be clear, the hotel (The Village Hotel) is less than three miles up the road, so we weren’t exactly going crazy here but it was nice to be somewhere different, you know?

But first we decided to go a bit crazy and buy some Krispy Kreme doughnuts. It’s a massive weakness for us, doughnuts, and not something we regularly buy. But Kyle had asked for a bit of splurge. So I went a bit crazy and bought 15! Originally I was going for 12 but then I got a coupon for money off three…and I got very excited by the new Halloween flavours.

(In fairness, we definitely didn’t eat them all and in the end gave away a number of them to family)

The vampire one (above) was particularly tasty, filled with brownie batter. Krispy Kremes are dangerously easy to eat I can tell you!

Anyway, later after the sugar high had diminished a bit, we walked to the hotel because it was so close and the weather was nice. We had dinner booked for 6pm and got dressed up all fancy. Yes, we booked that early.

Our thinking was that we wanted to have a few drinks and enjoy the evening fully. Kyle and I very rarely drink so this was a bit out of the ordinary for us. We usually just focus on the food. It’s not that we don’t drink or anything like that but we just don’t ever feel the need to. We’re a bit boring perhaps (though this does save us lots of money in pubs as a Pepsi Max is far cheaper).

Anyway I was really fancying a few cocktails for some reason and so this was the perfect place to satisfy that craving. I went for a Porn Star Martini because it sounded a bit crazy and Kyle stuck with his standard Budweiser. The drink was DELICIOUS. It didn’t even taste alcoholic, which is generally how I like my drinks 😉

We ordered our food and I was soon devastated to find out they had run out of chicken wings. I mean, let’s be honest, I should probably have been trying something different anyway but this was a sad blow. Instead I went with a Peri Peri chicken burger with a side of loaded fries.

While I know I would have preferred the chicken wings, the loaded fries were really good. And as someone who rarely goes for the carbs this was high praise indeed. Maybe it because I was on my second cocktail or maybe because they had waffle fries mixed in. Either way they were good. The burger was a bit dull, but to be honest, I was on my merry way to getting, well, merry so it didn’t really matter.

In the end, Kyle and I had a lovely time at hotel. We got fairly tipsy and just enjoyed doing something a bit different in a different setting. I did not, however, enjoy the hangover the next day. Though the fresh air and the Starbucks on the walk back definitely helped.

Later that day, after we’d gotten home and sorted ourselves out, we headed over to Kyle’s mum’s house to celebrate his birthday (and his twin’s birthday) with his family. Kyle got to open all his presents from his family and I got to give him his cake, which I’d commissioned his amazingly talented sister to bake. I’d given her the instructions that I wanted it to have a PlayStation 4 theme.

Kyle has been collecting Platinum Trophies for the different PS4 games he has (if you don’t know about PlayStations I won’t go into what these actual are) and so it seemed fun to have the cake reflect this.

The cake turned out fantastically! Lucy, his sister, did an amazing job (check her out on Instagram @Dirrty.Cakes – you can get her to bake anything!)

We all ordered take away for dinner. Kyle and I went for Koop + Kraft and spent a ridiculous amount of money… Kyle got a chicken burger with chicken tenders and loaded fries, I got chicken wings (of course) and halloumi bites. It was so tasty! We thoroughly enjoyed it.

The next day I went out for run in the morning. I didn’t have a plan. I actually thought I was going to go out for 3-4 miles but as I got going I found my legs felt quite fresh and I had a lot of energy. I decided to head out to a route where I knew I could get at least 10 miles. As I got to about 5 miles I knew I was up for an even longer run. I love runs like this because there’s no pressure. It’s just about finding the right route. I had some music on and just zoned out. I felt fantastic! Maybe it was all the food I’d been eating or maybe because I’d had no expectation for the run, but I just felt like I could keep going.

It helped that the weather was really nice. A little windy but it didn’t bother me. My pace was quite steady and I just felt really happy. My runs in the week had felt so hard and tiring, and to be honest as I set out I was expecting more of the same. But it was completely the opposite. I just love runs like this!

I definitely felt it the next day though. My legs were heavy and tired. I did a three mile shakeout run which helped losoen them up a bit, but I kept the pace very gentle and easy (not that I realistically could have gone that fast anyway!)

The next few days we saw my parents and received even more good food, this time in the shape of Colin.

You can’t have a birthday without Colin in my opinion. And he was lovely and festive, dressed up in his Halloween special.

So Kyle and I had a lovely time celebrating his birthday, even in these strange times. In my opinion, a lot can be made better with cakes and doughnuts 😉

What cake would you have for you birthday?

Have you been to stay anywhere else during the pandemic?

Virtual Virgin London Marathon support crew efforts

Last weekend seemed to be a fairly busy running weekend for the running community.

The Virtual Virgin London Marathon weekend was upon us and, while I wasn’t signed up, I was going to be helping my two friends complete theirs.  When I say “help” I mean that they were coming to stay with Kyle and I and do their marathon round Portsmouth. I had plotted a 13ish mile route which the plan was for them to do twice. But more on that later.

Cortney and Emma came over Friday evening and were staying until Monday morning. It was exciting having guests stay over as having only moved into our new house at the end of May, they were our first. We had our spare bedroom all set up and so were excited.

Saturday morning we ran just over 4 miles down to Southsea to get some brunch at the Southsea Beach Cafe. Handily the route was the start of the route they’d be running on Sunday so it helped give them some familiarity of the area. I wouldn’t be running with them on Sunday…this was somewhat of an anxiety for me of them getting lost and me ruining their London Marathon so anything that helped familiarise them was good!

Anyway we met my dad for brunch as well because he was at a loose end due to my mum being away for the weekend (bless him). The weather was pretty crummy (as I’m sure the whole of Britain was aware) but luckily we managed to miss any crazy rain.

Kyle carried a running pack so we could put warmer jackets in for when we stopped which definitely helped.

For brunch I had the kippers, something a bit different for me, and shared the chorizo burrito with Kyle as well (because we’re greedy people, we know this).

The food was very tasty, but a little on the small side so we were glad to have had 1.5 dishes! But quality over quantity and all that jazz.

My dad drove Kyle back to ours, while Cortney, Emma and I walked to grab some coffees and cake. We dropped into Bread Addiction and I picked up a cinnamon roll and a croissant-style doughnut thing (I want to say cronut).

The rest of the day we did a bit of moseying about some shops, picking up food for later and then me going through the route. I was so worried they’d get lost. We put the routes on their watches and I tried to talk them through it. As a failsafe I was going to run the route ahead of them and mark it out using flour that I had put into three water bottles and would carry in my running pack. As the loop was only around 13 miles I was happy to run just one loop and then they could repeat it for the full distance.

Emma was going to run with Cortney for the first loop and their pace was going to be around 11 min/miles, and I was going to be running around 8 min/mile so I would be comfortably ahead marking the route.

The girl woke up early and did their morning marathon preparations while I (luxuriously) got to stay in bed until 7.30am, 30 minutes before we were to leave. I wasn’t going to eat beforehand as I never do so 30 minutes was enough time for me to get sorted. Kyle was staying at home, ready to help if needed if someone got lost.

He took some photos of us before we left and then we were off.

The wind was strong, the rain on and off for the start and it was cold. I knew the wind would be favourable to us though as where the wind would be most strong would be along the seafront but we’d be running with it behind us. And where it would be against us would be more sheltered away from the front, so not as bad.

I periodically marked the “course” with flour where there were turnings or crossings, hoping the rain wouldn’t wash them off the road. But they were more nudges rather than actual signs because they’d have their watches with directions that would be clear (I prayed!). I did hope people didn’t think I was graffitiing as it looked a little odd me marking the pavements.

As I got down to the seafront the wind was exactly as I thought, right behind me. This was nice but my pony tail kept slapping me in my face which was annoying. But less annoying than running into the full force of the wind, which I saw a number of runners having to deal with. It was nice to see so many runners out and so many wearing the London Marathon bibs. I cheered them all on as I passed them and it raised some smiles. I felt a little like a fraud as I wasn’t running a marathon but I still felt somewhat involved, if only tenuously.

I quite enjoyed my run until I got to the last couple of miles and the wind and rain really were horrendous. In my short-sleeved top I felt very cold. I was intermittently worrying about Emma and Cortney as well. Were they OK? Were they lost? Was the route OK for them?

I realised I could get 14 miles if I did a little add-on at the end so I did that before heading back home and getting inside quickly. Brrr! It was cold! I was so grateful that I ran my marathon the week before and that I wasn’t having to run that loop twice. The weather was just horrid.

I realised I had a message from Emma asking if I could grab her a spare jacket and give it to her for the second loop. I found the jacket that I thought she meant and then ran back down to where she’d be. Unfortunately it wasn’t the jacket she meant but she put it on anyway as she was so sodden and cold. She had parted from Cortney a few miles ago. She decided to run down to Southsea and back as she mentally couldn’t face the loop again. I headed back home – now having added an extra mile on to my total distance.

I then had the best shower of my life – burning my skin to red raw I imagine, but so necessary. While I was showering I heard Kyle talking to someone. Turned out Cortney had come back for some spare clothes too and was heading back out again at a slower pace. Her foot (which had been problematic before the marathon) was hurting. She was in very good spirits though!

After showering and eating a steaming bowl of porridge, Kyle and I headed out to walk to cheer Emma on. Handily we had her on the Find My Friends app so we were able to find her and cheer her on as she headed back.

Now the rain was relentless and I felt so very sorry for them being outside – it was bad enough just walking in it.

Emma finished in just over 4hrs 30 and Cortney in 5 hours 50. Bless them both, they were cold, soaked but victorious. They did incredibly! I was sorry that the route hadn’t been better for them but I think the terrible weather had been the main issue (let’s be honest, Portsmouth is Portsmouth – not much I can do there).

After everyone had showered and warmed up we drove down to The Tenth Hole to pick up very much deserved cake. I went for the vegan chocolate strawberry cake which was DIVINE. I love The Tenth Hole for their very generous (Anna-friendly) sized slabs of cake. No issues for me finishing!

So a big congratulations to Emma and Cortney for battling not only terrible weather conditions but the streets of Portsmouth to complete their Virtual London Marathon. I was glad to be involved to celebrate their achievements. Doing a virtual marathon is something so crazy… no crowds, no amazing London sights, no aid stations, no big atmosphere, no volunteers to hang a medal round your neck at the end. But I think VLM did an amazing job in creating a community and doing the best alternative possible. So bug kudos to you all who ran it!

Did you run the Virtual London Marathon?

Have you ever run a virtual race?