What I’ve been up to lately

I feel like I haven’t had a proper catch-up post in ages!

I’m still not running but that’s a post for another day as I have a fair amount of uncertainty – which could be cleared up soon (potentially). But anyway, I’ve been busy eating lots of good food and doing fun things so let’s talk about that, eh?

A few weeks ago I went to visit my lovely friend, Charlotte, in Liverpool. Amazingly my plane took off from Southampton and landed in Manchester – which is one step more than I managed the last time I tried to get there!

Weird banana thing in the train station – there were loads of these all over the city in different styles

I got the train from Manchester to Liverpool and arrived safe and sound at her house. Charlotte used to live in Brighton which, from Portsmouth, is a whole lot easier (and cheaper) to get to but it’s nice to go somewhere new and spend time with her, so it was worth it.

I sadly was not able to do the local parkrun but instead enjoyed a rather wonderful lie-in instead (well, after 8am which for me is long). We then headed into town to mosey about.

We went into the largest LUSH in the world (actually the world). It was four stories!

It had its own spa it was that fancy. Charlotte and I actually had a guided tour round the spa and honestly if the lady had said she had availability there and then we would have signed up I think. It sounded divine!

We even had some vegan cakes on the top floor from the pop-up bakery, Nakery. Very tasty, but most definitely more healthy than indulgent. Lovely bit of cashew frosting on the top.

We shared this selection

What I also loved is there efforts for zero packaging at the Nakery.

For lunch we had an incredible meal in Almost Famous Burger. It was literally on the recommendation from a friend off of Instagram and the fact that it was chucking it down that we made the snap choice to head there. And what a good choice it was!

For lunch we had an incredible meal in Almost Famous Burger. It was literally on the recommendation from a friend off of Instagram and the fact that it was chucking it down that we made the snap choice to head there. And what a good choice it was!

I had the Halloween special which was a double bacon cheeseburger with a fried chicken burger on top and on top of that a corndog dipped in candied bacon. I mean, what even is life?

I’ve never had a corndog and it really was very tasty! It’s a shame it’s not really a British thing. The burger itself was very good. Charlotte and I also shared waffle fries with bacon dust and nacho cheese. Why have I also never tried waffle fries?! These were incredible.

Charlotte had a vegan burger and it looked equally impressive. She said it was good. What a win!

On the subject of vegan food, I also recently saw my friend Michelle for a vegan brunch at the absolutely wonderful Off Beet restaurant in the New Forest. I’ve been to Off Beet a few times and it’s never disappointed. Entirely plant-based and with such inventive menu, it’s such a treat to go there. They change the menu regularly according to the season and the food always looks so beautiful. The chefs are so good!

I had the No Eggy Omelette. It was filled with a cashew cream (there it is again!) and a fake smoked salmon made from marinated carrot. Honestly I wondered how they’d get away with that but it was SO fricking tasty. I really enjoyed this!

We also walked around the farm shop next door. Love that they sell ecofriendly detergents in a way that you don’t have to keep buying plastic bottles.

As always it was lovely to catch up with Michelle – someone who also struggles a lot with injuries. We had a good old moan 🙂

And then recently Kyle and I went up to Bristol to see more friends and enjoy a rather epic roast dinner. Having been on the carvery train for a bit, I was ready to have something a bit more posh. Quality over quantity I guess (though there is DEFINITELY a place for quantity when it comes to food in my eyes as you well know!). We went to a steakhouse called Pasture and it was INCREDIBLE.

Topped with parnsip crisp curls

I had pork and beef and it was delicious.

Served with it was creamed leeks and the most fluffy, crispy potatoes. I’m not usually a potato fan (very boring and bland in my opinion) but these were something special.

We were stuffed! But of course you do always have a separate stomach for pudding…

Chocolate brownie with a molten chocolate sauce, honeycomb ice cream and honeycomb pieces. I mean, anything served with molten chocolate sauce is a winner in my book. This was incredible.

So despite the lack of running, I’ve still been enjoying all the good food and fun times as I would normally. I’m of course desperate to get back to running but I’m being patient for now.

Have you been to Liverpool before?

What’s your favourite roast dinner?

What’s your favourite kind of burger?

Chicago Food Recap

Ahh our Chicago trip seems so long away now. But the memories are good 🙂

Staying in three different AirBnb’s helped extend our reach of where was easily accessible to go sightseeing (and eating). I did a bit of research before we went (one of my favourite things to do pre-holiday it must be said) and found a few top contenders for the best deep pan pizzas in Chicago.

Deep pan is a BIG deal in Chicago. One of the top rated was called Pequod’s. It was lucky we stayed in Wicker Park for the first night because in all honesty we probably wouldn’t have gone there otherwise because it was quite far out from our other Airbnb locations. I mentioned this meal a few posts ago, so go check that out.

Another pizza place we tried out was Lou Malnati’s and was actually one of our final meals. This was another high contender on all the lists of “best pizza”. As a chain there were many all over Chicago. It was very similar to Pequod’s in terms of how long the pizza took to prepare and cook (over 30 minutes) but I have to say, I far more enjoyed this pizza. And I don’t want to really as I always prefer more independent food places over franchises, but it is what it is.

I think the reason I preferred it more is because there wasn’t quite as much dough. It still had a thick base but it was a bit firmer and crispier. When we took a slice from the pan it held its shape better.

It was a lot more cheesy as well – in fact, one slice alone had 730 calories. That is crazy. As I always say tho, you’re on holiday and for me it’s part and parcel of enjoying myself out there.

I had two slices and a whole plate of chicken wings (a mix of buffalo and BBQ flavoured). And we had a sharer of mozzarella sticks.

I’m sure I don’t need to point out the obvious, but that’s a lot of food. It was very good though and we both enjoyed it immensely. But we were equally glad we had a 30 minutes’ walk back to the Airbnb to allow a bit of digestion and fresh air afterwards. Oof!

Of course it goes without saying I ate a lot of chicken wings.

Embarrassing really but I just fricking love them and the States do them so well. And not just your standard buffalo or BBQ fodder, but a range of flavours. While my previous favourite was the standard buffalo with a blue cheese dip (it has to have the dip), my new favourite is Garlic Parmesan butter. Hold. The. Boat. It was so good. No sauce needed, dripping in buttery cheesy goodness. Heavenly.

And I have no shame in admitting that I found this out when we ordered Uber Eats to the Airbnb and had an easy lazy dinner in. Out of a polystyrene box, it rocked my world. I’m not a posh person, I have no food snobbery, and I will happily enjoy it.

A mix of BBQ and Garlic Paremsan cheese

I did eat more colourful food during my time abroad of course. I had a very tasty “bowl” from Chipotle as an easy quick lunch. Tho the length of time it took to order and get it really questions how much of a fast food this really was…and it wasn’t cheap. I did double up on meat and add guacamole but seriously it came to over $10!

And on the same Mexican note, we had a lovely Mexican street food style lunch in a lovely little spot in Little Italy called Chilango. I had a steak rice bowl with lots of salad and salsa.

The post marathon lunch was of course epic as well. We walked the not-very-far way back to our apartment, I showered (best shower of my life, it always is after a marathon) and then stumbled into the very close Bar Louie and proceeded to order far too much food, of which we of course ate most of.

Pulled chicken nachos to share, chicken wings and pork “wings” (kind of ribs on a stick) for me, Pretzels and a burger for Kyle. The waitress was impressed.

The nachos were incredible. I think Kyle humoured me by agreeing to order them because he only had a few while I hoovered them up like nobody’s business. The wings were good and the pork was delicious.

I mean, it all tasted like I’d just run 26.2 miles and there is no better seasoning than that! (Edit: you don’t have to run a marathon to eat all this. I have eaten like this many times and not run a marathon, but the fact you are so hungry and your muscles are so tired and in need of a refuel makes it taste that much more satisfying).

We tried many treats throughout our holiday too like cinnamon sugar pretzel bites at the Navy Pier.

We had Insomnia cookies after we visited the Lincoln Zoo. We loved how they also sell milk along side them and that the cookies were WARM.

And of course fro-yo as a mid-afternoon snack… with all the toppings.

Chicago was a fantastic place to mosey around, shop and enjoy the sights.

I think I enjoyed it a bit more than New York because it felt less hectic, less busy, less noisy and dirty. The weather was cold and sunny, and of course windy. We were lucky to have one rain day at the start but the rest was beautiful.

And to take home (and one evening’s snack of choice) I bought far too many M&M’s.

The different flavours were amazing! White Chocolate Peanut?! Almonds! Pretzels! Ahh it was such a good haul. Now just to pace myself with them…

What do you love eating in America?

Are there any foods you just have to try when on holiday?

Are you a sweet or savoury person? I used to think I was definitely sweet but I think I’m steering closer to savoury (though of course cake is always a winner for me).

The days before the Chicago Marathon

The Chicago Marathon… my last Marathon Major. Jeeze it was stressful.

The week leading up to the race was honestly one of my worst pre-race weeks. Despite feeling fine (albeit tired) during the Bournemouth Half, the days afterwards my knee suddenly felt really stiff and not right. I was VERY confused. It had felt absolutely fine during the race and now it was swollen and sore.

And so the days leading up became project recovery and repair. I iced every night, elevated it, took ibuprofen and didn’t run at all. I was in panic mode. Luckily my very lovely physio had offered to give me a free hour session before I flew (he’s literally a legend) and so I could see him before I flew.

Actually I was supposed to see him Saturday but I’d gotten the date wrong, idiot that I am, so we’d rescheduled for the Wednesday night, the day before Kyle and I were flying. This was fortuitous because Saturday I was fine, but post-Bournemouth I was not!

He worked his magic and I prayed for the best. It’s funny because I’d been so worried about my hamstring and now I had me knee. My hamstring, ironically, felt normal. I was worried about the long flight aggravating it but it felt absolutely fine. I stood up and walked about a number of times but generally it was OK.

So many people on the flight were also going for the marathon which was cool. Spotting people with the Garmin’s and the race tops.

We arrived in Chicago midday, caught the train to Wicker Park, where we were staying for one night in our first Airbnb. Wicker Park was really cool. Very hipster.

We had dinner in the raved about Pequod’s pizzeria. I’d done my research, it had been consistently rated as number one in the deep pie lists.

I’m actually not a big pizza fan but Kyle would eat it every day if he could. He really loves a deep pan as well. I definitely prefer a thinner more rustic base, like sourdough but I was of course going to try it.

We were quite hungry and being the greedy couple that we are, ordered a medium and an order of chicken wings for me. I’d have a slice or two of the pizza but I was there for the wings really. The waitress was sceptical of our eating ability but I was like “lady, American portion sizes were made for us”.

The pizza took a solid 40 minutes to get to us – as the deep pans tend to. By the time it arrived with the wings I was about ready to eat Kyle’s arm. The pizza came in a giant dish and the waiter served us up a slice each. Now a normal human would probably fine with one of those slices. They were THICK. And the cheese pull (a new phrase I’ve only just become acquainted with) was Instagram worthy.

It was ginormous

It was a sausage and mushroom cheese pizza and it was a monster. The base was so thick and doughy. The crust was caramelised burnt Parmesan, as they’re known for.

My wings were good… a mixture of buffalo and BBQ with the blue cheese on the side. I mean, they weren’t anything crazy. Decent wings, I was happy.

I had a couple of slices of the pizza… it was good, big chunks of sausage. Kyle really enjoyed it. It was a little too doughy for my tastes though. It was delicious but I wouldn’t go for it again. I’m more about the toppings!

The next day we headed from Wicker Park to downtown Chicago. We made a little coffee stop in a very cool place called The Wormhole which was full of retro gaming and film memorabilia.

Star Wars lifestyle cardboard characters, a DeLorean car and even an old school Nintendo with all the games. It was good fun.

Then we headed to our next Airbnb. SO fancy, we had the entire apartment. A great view, it’s own kitchen, bathroom and living area. It was very nice indeed. And literally 10 minutes from Grant Park and the Marathon start.

We had a lovely breakfast in Eggy’s Diner, which was just delicious. I had a turkey and goat’s cheese omelette with home fries.

We then headed to the Expo to pick up my bib and Kyle’s bib for the Chicago International 5k.

I was supposed to be running the 5k too but after some hard thinking (and excessive worrying and flustering) I decided not to risk my knee. I could support Kyle, who was going for a PB… and not just any PB, a sub-20 minute 5k! His PB currently stood at a few seconds over, so it was time to give it a blast.

The expo, like all the Majors’ expos, was impressive and big. A giant hall full of running-related vendors, race organisers and cool things to see. It was very busy though and in the Nike clothing area (the official sponsors) there were barely any small sizes. Luckily I picked up a long-sleeve top in small but it was by sheer chance!

I won’t lie though, I was honestly not that excited and feeling very nervous and a bit down. My knee was still swollen and stiff and I had a lot of doubts as to whether I’d get to the start line let alone finish.

As I hadn’t run at all since it had started feeling stiff I had no idea how it would feel when I started running. Would there be pain straight away? Would the pain happen later? I had no idea.

I became even more superstitious, finding wood and touching it every time we talked about each finishing or running.Numbers became weird,g important… the number 13 kept appearing for us. We noticed it appearing in all different places – the number of the booths was to pick my bib up from, the number of our apartment, the price of something we bought…the date of the race. Honestly I became a crazy woman. I don’t know how Kyle didn’t kill me.

What was cool though, in my bib packet it had instructions of how and where to pick my Six Star medal up from at the end of the race. I had a special QR tag on my bib and, if I so desired, I could wear an extra bib on my back to say I was running for my six star. Ha! Like I’d risk such am assumption. No way would I wear that. Tempting fate much, eh? All I could see was me stood at the side of the race, with that bib on my back as I hobbled with a dud knee trying to find Kyle. Nope.

That night to make life easy we decided to Uber Eats some good. We’d walked a lot and couldn’t be bothered to go out again.

Instead I ordered a very large portion of chicken wings (don’t judge me) and Kyle ordered a Philly cheesesteak AND a burger. In fairness, we hadn’t had lunch…I have to say that the wings were incredible. A mixture of BBQ and garlic Parmesan, oh my lord they were amazing. The garlic Parmesan were a new flavour to me and one I want to find again!

The next morning we were up early (a theme for the entire holiday really), ready for the 5k race.

We had to walk about 20 minutes to the start and it was bitterly cold. I was wearing ALL the layers as I wasn’t running, but Kyle just had his hoodie which he’d be handing to me before the start.I’ve never supported at a race on my own before and it was quite stressful for me.

I wanted to get to a good spot to cheer him on… but I wouldn’t have long due to the shortness of the race and his speed. So I headed off before he started.

Hilariously later on when I showed him a cool picture my friend had gotten with Paula Radcliffe Kyle said “oh wow is that Paula? I thought she was mixed race? I had a conversation with that lady at the start of the 5k.” WHAT. So Kyle had no idea he had been stood next to Paula Radcliffe and spoke about the weather with her!

Happily, Kyle did indeed break 20 minutes in the 5k. He got 19:56. Absolutely over the moon for him! I am so proud of him. We the headed quickly back so he could shower and then we headed to meet my lovely friends, who were also running the 5k and the marathon, for brunch.

A simple but effective breakfast!

These were the friends I’d made from the New York Marathon trip last year. It was great to see them but I did just further increase my nerves. In fact the entire day really was me being a bag of nerves and not much fun. Kyle did a fantastic job of looking after me and calming me down.

We did a lot of walking and sight seeing and then eventually it was time for my pre-race dinner and wind down. We went for a takeaway Blaze pizza which was just down the road from the Airbnb.

I got a chicken bbq pizza and we shared a side of garlic dough bites. Perfect!Then off to bed… I was definitely going to start the race, but I wasn’t sure at all how it would go.

Do you usually run the day before a marathon or big race?

Do you have any superstitions?

Have you been to Chicago before?

A very Anna weekend

Ahh I can’t tell you how happy it makes me feel to be able to write a post like this. My usual “Anna post” whereby I eat a lot of good food and run a lot of good miles. The only thing missing is a parkrun, but soon!

On Friday night Kyle and I met up with fellow running friends Ben and Caroline for some food in Portsmouth. We went to 7Bone Burger Co. which do exceptionally greasy, over-sized burgers that hit that certain spot.

I’ve been to 7Bone many many times (both in Portsmouth and Southampton). It’s not the greatest food you’ll ever eat and I imagine you’ll get far better burgers elsewhere but it’s really the whole package of the burger and sides.

I managed to steer myself away from just ordering chicken wings and ordering the fried chicken burger with added halloumi patty, with chicken wings on the side and frickles (fried pickles).

It was delicious. Adding a halloumi patty is the way forward!

it was lovely to see Ben and Caroline. They’re very similar to ourselves and so no one held back on their order. I do love couples who eat just as much as us 😉

The next day instead of parkrun I went to the gym for some stair machine time. I would have loved to have gone to parkrun but I’m still trying to not run twice in a row, just to be absolutely certain the hamstring has time to recover.

I wanted to hit a long run on Sunday and this was more important. I think soon I’ll be able to run twice in a row, but for now Chicago is too important to risk anything – regardless of how good everything feels right now!

So Sunday I got up after a little lie-in (let’s not be sensible and beat the heat of course…) and headed out for 12-15 miles. Psychologically it’s far easier to give yourself a range of miles. I have a great route that I can pretty much cut short from 6 miles onwards, and can increase to pretty much 18 miles. And it’s lovely and flat and along the sea front.

I adore these long runs and mentally have missed them so much when I was injured. It’s my time to listen to a podcast, zone out and just run. It’s one of my favourite parts of running. Long runs just seem to click for me (unlike speed work or shorter distances which absolutely do not click for me).

I was a bit nervous, as I always am with running at the moment but I needn’t have been. It just flowed. About six miles in I need I would be doing 15 miles. My hamstring barely made an appearance until towards the end when I could just start to feel the discomfort.

I probably shouldn’t have sped up in the final miles but it’s something that happens very naturally for me.

And when I finished, though very tired and sweaty, I was so happy. Don’t get my wrong, it was hard. Mentally and physically I felt every one of those miles, but it felt like I was making gains – like I was literally levelling up my running as I went. These are solid miles for my Chicago Marathon bank. I feel very positive right now.

And what better way to celebrate a great long run? A delicious roast dinner!

I went to Kyle’s dad’s for the rest of Sunday and enjoyed an incredible roast pork spread which was perfection.

Followed by a rich Lindt chocolate cake, I refuelled very well indeed.

A solid weekend in my book!

How was your weekend?

Do you have a particular burger you like? I much prefer chicken burgers.

London trip and Burgess parkrun

This weekend was a lovely long one.

Kyle and I left work on Friday after lunch and walked to the train station to head to London. We had an AirBnb booked so after arriving at Waterloo Station we headed there. Not to state the obvious but it was a pretty hot one! Walking and using the tube was hardwork.

After settling into our accommodation we headed to London Bridge to go up The Shard.

Neither of us had done this before so it was exciting to go up. Though I have to say, the number of queues before you get up there is a little ridiculous: there’s a queue to get inside, then a queue to get your ticket, then a queue to have your items checked, then a queue to have a photo taken (which is mandatory and later you have to queue to view and then pay for if you actually want it), then a queue to get into the elevator before FINALLY arriving on the viewing floor. Jeeze. But once you’re up there it’s pretty spectacular. We had a lovely clear day so got a great view.

We avoided the expensive ice cream (£3 per scoop!) and cocktails at the bar (£13.50!) – definitely not in Portsmouth anymore eh. And then we headed back to the AirBnb to get ready for dinner.

We were going to the Chelsea branch of the Marco Pierre White steakhouse. We glammed up and got an Uber there (who was super friendly and even recommended us the same restaurant we had booked for brunch to the next day – great minds!).

The restaurant was super posh – definitely not something we’re used to 😉

We both had Whiskey Mac cocktails while we perused the menu. I drank mine trying to convince myself I do in fact like whiskey (I don’t, unless large amounts of the ice has melted into it). For starters we had the chicken parfait, then I had the duck leg salad and Kyle had steak, and for pudding we both had sticky toffee pudding.

It was very tasty, but quite small portions. I imagine for “normal” people this would be fine but I’m a greedy large appetited person.

We had grand ambitions of going to a pub and having a few more drinks, but reality set in and we realised buying a few snacks from a corner shop and going back to the AirBnb to watch some Good Place was actually better. We’re simple souls.

The next morning we walked to Burgess parkrun (unsurprisingly in Burgess Park). It was so hot. It was a two mile walk so we were nice and toasty when we got there.

While we were milling around I heard a man talking to two others about his parkrun Alphabet Challenge progress. He mentioned he was going to York very soon and then in a couple of week he was off somewhere in Poland for the Z,

Being the nosy person I am, I interjected and asked which parkrun in Poland. I asked because recently my Z for Zary had been removed from counting as a Z in the challenge. I only found this out fairly recently when I checked on my Bingo Challenge progress. Yep, no more Zary in the Z list. After asking around I found out it’s because the Z in Zary is actually not technically a Z in the Polish/Russian language (it has a special dot above it, meaning it means something else).

I mean, of course I was a bit frustrated when I found this out – I went all that way! But actually I really only have myself to blame for this mistake being the non-Polish speaking ignorant English girl… I don’t regret going to Zary of course as I loved going and it was a great adventure for Kyle and I. It also just means I need to go back to Poland to go to the actual real Z parkrun there (without the little dot above it), Zielona Góra. Watch this space…

But anyway, the man couldn’t remember which one he was going to but said his friends had been thorough in their organising. Well, good to luck him!

Burgess parkrun was a beautiful course which ran through the park, next to the large pond (small lake?) and back round again.

It was lovely and flat, asides from a couple of very brief inclines. And the marshals were lovely and enthuasiastic cheering us along.

My hamstring niggled a little but nothing major. I kept my pace controlled. I find it very hard though during parkrun because as you get to the end people are more enthusiastic in their cheering (“come on, sprint finish!”) and as tempting as that is, it’s not ideal when you’re trying to be sensible.

And it’s hard when people suddenly surge past you… Of course I did speed up a bit, but I tried so hard not to get too carried away in the moment. My time was 24:26.

At the end they had bananas and free gels to try (I declined both, far too hot). Then we headed quickly back to the AirBnb to get showered and head to our brunch in Covent Garden, The Big Easy.

Now BBQ food at 11am might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea but for me this was the absolute dream. It was called the Boozy Brunch and the one we selected (The Big Pig Gig) was an all you can eat BBQ food and unlimited drink. We’re not huge drinkers (and it was 11am…) so we opted for Diet Cokes (unlike the table behind us who were at least three pints throughout the meal haha).

I felt a bit bad because on our second Diet Coke I said to the waitress quite firmly (or so Kyle tells me…) not to bring straws with our fresh glasses. The waitress looked a bit affronted told me actually they were eco-friendly straws… Whoops that’s me told!

Anyway the food itself was so good. We had pulled pork, chicken legs, pork ribs, cornbread, coleslaw, BBQ beans and chips.

Once we got through our first ’round’ the waitress was there straight away asking what bits we’d like again, or just a bit of everything again? Well… just a bit of everything please!

Kyle was a big fan of the cornbread, I loved the ribs and neither of us touched the chips (why waste valuable stomach space!). But everything was delicious. On finishing most of the second round the waitress came back. We were both fairly full but being greedy I asked for a couple more ribs. You know, just because.

THEN I was stuffed. Ooooooof!

I had previously had ideas of going to Doughnut Time afterwards but noooo way would this be happening now. Also, the thought of giant sickly doughnuts really was not appealing in the heat.

We then rolled walked back to Waterloo and headed back home. Kyle played on his iPad while I read my newly acquired book, Ready Player One.

A trip well spent!

How was your weekend?

Do you like alcohol with a brunch?

Have you been up The Shard?