Ipswich parkrun – one letter left!

Another recap from a couple of weeks ago…Continuing my parkrun Alphabet Challenge. The letter ‘I’ was always going to be a tricky one for me.

Inverness parkrun would have been a nice option and my initial idea was that I could do the Loch Ness Marathon in September and do the parkrun the day before. However, that weekend my parents need me to dog sit as they’re on holiday. So that scuppered that plan.

Happily though I have friends in Ipswich and I reached out to Ade and Bex (who I’d met on a Marathon Talk run camp and have been friends with since) and asked if they’d be about so I could catch-up and have some brunch after with them. Bex was super lovely and offered to have me stay on Friday night. This was so helpful considering it’s around 4 hours from Southampton to Ipswich. I didn’t really fancy a 4am leave time on Saturday morning.

I took Friday off as I thought driving to Ipswich straight from work Friday evening would probably be pretty gnarly with traffic. So it meant a nice little lie-in Friday morning, a quick gym visit (always nice before you sit in a car for hours), lunch and then I was on the road by 12.

Ideally I wanted to have left by 11am but I’m always late so 12 wasn’t too bad. What was bad was the then 5.5 hour journey that I endured to get to Ipswich. Oh the M25 is just a joy isn’t it? I also managed to plan a very badly timed service stop at South Mimms which proved to be a nightmare leaving the motorway for and then joining the motorway after. But it was an absolute necessity considering that I was absolutely bursting for a wee. My water bottle was getting dangerously tempting let’s put it that way!

I’d planned to meet Ade and Bex at Pizza Express in the middle of Ipswich as Bex had the Twilight 10k that evening and it seemed like an ideal early dinner location to meet-up. I could also then support her at her race. Unfortunately, being the idiot that I am, when I got back onto the motorway from the services I had unknowingly put Bex’s address into my SatNav rather than the car park near Pizza Express. So instead of arriving there I ended up outside her house… I therefore missed dinner at Pizza Express (I urged them to carry on as I was now going to be later and I didn’t want her eating too late to her race). I managed to get into Ipswich, buy myself a Subway and then meet them just before her race. Ah well! As Anna’isms go, it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen.I enjoyed watching Bex’s race. She did really well, though missed her PB that she was aiming for as it was quite humid. It was a two lapped flat course going through the centre of Ipswich. Ade and I stood and cheered outside a bar enjoying the fact that we weren’t running (I hate 10ks). The lead guy was miles ahead of everyone else and finished in an impressive 30:xx time. I mean whaaaat.The next morning we headed out to Ipswich parkrun. It was a very warm morning and I knew that the course wasn’t a flat one so I decided to just see how it went. To be honest, I’m not in my best shape having let the speedwork decline a bit for a while to give myself some time off intense training before my New York marathon training ramps up. My calves have intermittently been a bit tight as well so I’m trying not to aggravate them into a full-blown niggle.Ade was timekeeping as he had suffered a probable calf strain earlier in the week, so it was just Bex and I. As we got started from the cricket pitch I felt my legs responding and finding myself sitting nicely at 7min/mile pace. It was mostly on grass but easy underfoot.It was an undulating course but not hilly, and a one lapper which is always novel, with lots of windy turns. We also ran past Chantry mansion which was a very beautiful and old-style building.

(Photos from Facebook)

I kept pushing the pace and as I ran past a marshal they told me I was first female. I didn’t think I was but after a couple more said the same I decided to believe it. I wasn’t running full-out though so this was a nice surprise. There is a nasty hill towards the end which I pushed up and then it was back round the cricket pitch to the finish. I finished in 22:03 and in 18th position (1st female) which I was quite surprised about. I think there were a lot less runners though due to the 10k race the night before. Bex did well considered she ran the race!
The parkrun was lovely and friendly and offered teas, coffees and cake in the pavilion house for a small donation. I love this! They didn’t have a cafe nearby so this was perfect for keeping the community feel going. I also got to meet the lady behind the Twitter handle which was quite amusing as she’d commented on one of my Tweets not long before the start of the parkrun.

Afterwards we headed for a ‘parkrun fresh’ breakfast in the Suffolk Water Park, a proper greasy spoon affair. We sat on the benches outside overlooking the fishing lake and it was very peaceful. I went for a full English (of course) and swapped the fried potatoes for black pudding #winningIt was very tasty!

After showering I parted ways and began my next part of the weekend, driving to Hatfield to see more Marathon Talk friends, Chris and Kate, who were also lovely enough to let me stay at theirs that evening. Kate works for the National Trust and it was an event she was organising, single-handedly I hasten to add. What a superwoman, eh?

I got to Kate’s and then we headed out to Hatfield Forest to get cracking on setting up some last minute event bits, such as the goodie bags and the course signs.They got an assembly line of volunteers together to fill the bags with a banana, a KIND bar, leaflets, medal and water. It was cool to see the behind the scenes stuff.
Chris, the ranger Ben and I headed out to the course (the forest itself) to set the signs up for the race. We packed the Jurassic Park jeep (my name for the little off-roader car) with all the signs we’d need (“Keep left”, “mile X”, “Water ahead”, etc.). It was a hotAt first this was good fun. The off-road vehicle was so much fun to be driven around in. It just cruised along nicely over the uneven surface and the (albeit warm) breeze in our faces was nice as we got to the first point we needed to mark out with signs. It was nice as well for Ben to be with us as he gave us inside scoops of the area (where Roman roads used to be, where a plane crashed…).

We were using the course map with Kate’s annotations of where and what signs should be used. The course was a two lapper so at least that meant we didn’t need to travel 13.1 miles about the place but it still took a very long time. The fun soon wore off. We were all hot, tired and a bit frustrated.

Eventually Kate rang and suggested I come back with her and her kids while Ben and Chris continued. I was the only one running the race the next day and probably needed to come back and eat something for dinner. Ben and Chris were absolute troopers though finishing it off (it took until well after 8pm!).

Kate and I ordered some Domino’s Pizza for want of a better idea. We were all too exhausted to go out anywhere and that seemed the perfect option. I went for a medium Meteor pizza with mozzarella meatballs as a side and, as always, am ever surprised by my seemingly insatiable appetite. I rarely ever order takeaway pizzas (Indian being my takeaway of choice) buy I polished it off quite easily. But it was a solid (wellll, fairly solid) pre-half marathon meal choice and I went to bed feeling well fueled and with a very good idea of what the course would entail in the next day’s race!

I’ll recap the race in another post!

Have you ever set up a race course? I’ve done parkrun many times but this was another level!

Have you ever had a takeaway pizza as a pre-race meal?

How far would you drive for a parkrun?

MarathonTalk Austria Run Camp 2018 – part 2

So my blog has been offline for what seems like AGES due to virus issue I had. Thankfully I had some solid IT support (thanks Dad and Kyle) and it’s now back online. I’ve got so much to catch you up on…Firstly Part 2 of the now very delayed Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp recap. Catch up with Part 1 HERE.Thursday’s run was going to the epic run to Mariazell, the local town. Like most of the runs we did this week, it was very similar to last year. But this didn’t make it any less fun, or hard. We ran straight from the lodge, past our lake to basically up a mountain. It was a real tough slog. I remember it vividly from last year and I remember slacking behind the front guys and feeling a bit sorry for myself for not being as fit as them. This time I held my own and kept up with the lovely Sarah and Max, power couple extraordinaire who are super fast marathoners (FYI they CYCLED from Lyon to get to Austria for the camp, I mean WHAT – literally over 1,000 miles! They also have some cool World Records for doing marathons in fancy dress super fast).The hill did go on seemingly forever though…OK just a mile, but solidly uphill for an entire mile is quite a trek. There were some great downhills afterwards and it was nice to stretch the legs out again after the slog. The run was beautiful. As we ran downhill we went through a forest area which then suddenly opened out onto a quiet road with some traditional Austria looking houses (with some funky gnomes guarding the front).It was just so pretty. We then got onto a track that was used as one of the pilgrimage roads. Mariazell is a very popular pilgrimage destination and throughout the week we would often see streams of people hiking, some even carrying a giant cross. Along this path there were lots of those boxes containing religious photos, flowers and offerings. It was an interesting run.Eventually we got to the top of another climb and rested for a second. A few of the guys had (sensibly) brought hydration packs but a lot of us hadn’t and as it was a very warm day we were suffering. There looked like there was a tap next to a little hut but sadly it wasn’t working. One of the girls was on a bike (as she was suffering from a niggle) and she kindly gave round some of her water. Whew. Then it was decision time. Do I just run down to Marizell and then get the ski lift to the café at the top, or do I run up the very steep incline instead? Steep climb it was! I decided I’d run for as long as I could and then hike the rest.It became a bit of a battle of wills as to who would start walking first but I think I was probably that person. My legs were BURNING. But then I decided a run-walk strategy was probably the most sensible and I caught up with the two guys who were continuously running anyway. The real star of the show was Max who kept to a very slow but consistent run and managed to get past us all. Consistency seemed best! But I enjoyed my spurts of running and then walking as I method to get up. That said, the walking became less of a relief and it was just cycling through which muscles were burning the most towards the end.When we got to the top, over two miles of VERY steep climbs, I ran straight to the café and basically gasps “wasser, bitte, wasser”. Water was of the upmost necessity. I downed an ice cold pint of water before asking for another. The server was so nice and gave us all water. SO needed. Then we met up with the others who had decided to take it slower or take the ski lift and had a lovely ice cold lemon fizzy water (sparkling water with lemon juice – very zest and refreshing). Whew!!From there we ran the very downhill, steep mile to Mariazell. I was feeling quite tired by this point and decided to not run stupid speeds down the very precariously rocky downhill path. Unfortunately the lovely Tina who was on the bike took a tumble while she was biking downhill and cut up her knees. It was actually quite gruesome but she was very chipper about it all and went to the pharmacy for some bandages. Bless her.In Mariazell we all stopped for a light refreshment. I had a coffee and an apple – though I’d have loved an ice cream. But a few us were going to run back (about five miles or so) so I decided to give it a swerve. Some of the guys headed back in the mini-bus but a few us, with Martin, ran back. We were very much dependent on a route on John’s watch and it made for an interesting run. A few wrong turns and running up a pointless hill, but otherwise it was a fantastic run.Towards the end, about a mile and half to go, I got a second wind and found myself picking up the pace. I probably overcooked it too soon because I started fading towards the end as we got back to our lake. But it was a good finisher!

And then we all jumped into the lake as soon as we got our trainers off. Oh god it was SO good. I was so hot and tired and the lake was so cold and refreshing. I properly swam out and felt very at one with the world in that moment!In the end we’d run 16 miles in total for that day. It was a beast of a day and one I thoroughly enjoyed. We got back to the lodge and it was a case of how much food could I consume within the shortest amount of time, having not eaten since breakfast and it now pushing 4pm!! We were all a bit like wild animals at this point shoveling food down. It was fantastic.

That evening I had a massage with the lovely Karila (so needed) and I fell asleep during it! I was so relaxed and tired and she has a very soothing voice… Most evenings we also did a bit of yoga with Max leading us through a routine. I loved this! I don’t normally do yoga (though I do some stretching routines at the gym) and with all the running I found this super helpful to keep my legs feeling less like they’d been run over each day. It was very hard to not fall asleep again though in the end bit though…

That evening we had the quiz and, like last year, it was immensely fun. We had all nicely bonded and were having good banter 🙂 It was a great end to a really fantastic day.Unfortunately the next day we had the run I was least looking forward to. And almost foreshadowing my feelings the weather had taken a turn and it was a bit chilly and rainy. Ah well. This run was the last run and it was basically a 10k eliminator on a set course Martin had created. The idea being that we had to finish as close to 11am as possible in a set location. We just had to predict what time we’d do (max effort, no sandbagging) and start at that corresponding time. I gave myself a lot of headaches over this run.

I didn’t like the idea that I couldn’t run it how I wanted to….I didn’t like that I had to push myself when I didn’t really want to… I don’t like 10ks…. I wasn’t feeling in good enough shape to do a “good” time. Basically I was being a bit of a wet blanket about the whole affair. I’m very stubborn and only like to “try” at races when it suits me and get a bit grumpy if I’m forced to do something I’m not up for.Anyway, after much debate (with myself) I settled on 46 minutes. My PB is 42 minutes but I’d be nowhere near that but at the same time I didn’t want to say 50… I probably should have to take the unwanted pressure off so I could enjoy the run but ehhh.

We ran just under a mile to the starting place and everyone got ready for their respective starting times. It was drizzling and chilly. I was grumpy. I would be starting with Simon, Sarah (super speedster) and Tim. At 10:14am we headed off. Within a few minutes I was being left behind, despite sticking to a fairly even and (what I thought) was a reasonable pace to achieve 46 minutes. But everyone has their own pacing strategies of course. Soon I was lagging behind and feeling very miserable. Oh I know I was being a right pathetic piece of work. So many negative thoughts were spiraling around my head. By mile two I had pretty much given up. My legs were tired, my pace was slowing down and 46 minutes now sounded highly unrealistic. I decided to just give up on that goal and run however I wanted. Sod this stupid challenge <– throwing my toys out of the pram there.There was a very nasty hill that went on for about half a mile and I managed to catch Tim up as I seemed to be hit the incline with a renewed sense of vigor. Hmmm OK this wasn’t *so* bad. As I got to the downhill I decided to just let go. I could gain back some of the speed I lost at the beginning. In that sprint downhill I caught Simon up and managed to overtake him on the turnaround. This again bolstered my confidence. It wasn’t a race between us as we wanted to finish at the same time, but it made me feel more confident that I was back on track. Then we headed back to the start (it was an out-and-back route). I powered the uphill again and then powered the downhill. Now I was in the zone. I saw Sarah in the distance and made it my mission to catch her up. As I headed back I overtook the other guys who had stated before me. I wondered if I was overcooking it but I decided to hell with it. I’d rather push it now that I was feeling it again.As I raced towards the finish, having now overtaken Sarah just, about half a mile or so away, Martin, Connor and James thundered past me. I thought they’d over-cooked it as I was spot on with my timing (or so I thought). But then 6.1 miles ticked past (as did 46 minutes) and I realised I was going to have a long course. I finished in 46:36 at 6.3 miles. Turns out when I did the turnaround I went too far as most people turned before a barrier whereas I went on to the bridge a bit further on (personally I blame Martin’s poor instructions ;-)). But I was happy to have 46 minutes on my watch at least. What a turnaround from the sour puss mood I was in at the start eh! Everyone else did really well too. So a solid if challenging last run!To be honest, this recap could continue on and be even more long than it currently is. I could keep going on and on about how amazing this trip was (again) but I’ll leave it here. It was such a fun adventure full of fun and lovely people. I had a fabulous time. Martin, the organiser, is a cool and fun guy, he doesn’t crowd you or dictate what we should do. He’s very chilled and relaxed. I’m not sure how I’d get on at a “proper” training camp (the 10k eliminator run shows my willingness for that sort of thing eh) but this is perfect. Relaxed running, beautiful scenery and fun people. I thoroughly recommend!Have you ever been on a running holiday?

Do you like to be competitive with others or yourself?

Things I’m Loving Lately – June/July

My blog has gotten so behind. I’ve just been a bit mad busy lately and haven’t had the chance to actually sit and write about life… I have a lot of notes on my phone and posts that I’ve been intending on writing but ehhhh just time has gotten away from me. Excuses aside, here’s some stuff I’ve been loving.

Football: I was really enjoying the World Cup. Handily at Wiggle we had the TV on all the time so we could watch (while working) the matches that went on throughout the day so I felt quite on top of what was going on.And it was so much fun watching the England game against Croatia in a packed out pub. I’ve never watched a match like that before and hearing everyone chanting was just such a thrill. I’ve never felt so emotionally invested in a World Cup before and that match was both a fantastic and devastating experience. It was sad that England got kicked out but I’m so proud for how far we got.
What really made me laugh though was in the pub two girls were doing their nails. I mean, seriously.

Love Island: Yes, yes judge away. I’m aware it’s potentially showcasing everything that is wrong with our society and it’s vacuous and pointless. That said, I enjoy watching it. I’m not ashamed and happily admit I tune in for every episode. I assume it’s why people enjoy watching horror movies. They obviously don’t want to be in a similar experience but they enjoy watching it. I don’t need to engage my brain, I can switch off and just let the ridiculousness play out in front of me.

My mum watched an episode with me and it was beyond hilarious. The comments (“Anna, do they have nookie on TV? In the same room?” and “Are they wearing bikinis or knickers?”) just made the whole experience another level of entertainment. It was like my very own version of Gogglebox. She quite got into it by the end – Team Danni and Jack all the way!

Cinema Visits: Speaking of horror movies, I saw Hereditary the other week. Why oh why did I do this to myself? In my mind the rationale went like this: I’ve never seen a horror movie in the cinema and people say that it’s a thrill to watch it amongst lots of other people reacting similarly to you… plus I knew I’d never watch it at home and it had had some good reviews (Mark Kermode aside). I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever felt so stressed, terrified and unhappy in the cinema before. I spent a vast chunk of time trying to embed myself into the seat, trying to escape, and then hiding my face with my hands. I’m not lying when I say that that night I had to sleep with a light on. GENUINE levels of fear. The movie Tag however was very funny and I enjoyed it immensely. There was one joke that was a bit distasteful but otherwise it was genuinely laugh out loud. I really enjoyed it.

Nachos: I have quite a weird obsession at the moment with nachos. I literally can’t stop craving them. I don’t know where this has come from but I just keep wanting them. I go through these weird food crazes where I obsess over a certain type of food and eat it to death (though apples, cake and porridge are long-standing fixtures in my life and have never grown old to me).The standard would be tortilla crisps covered in melted cheese, a sprinkling of jalapeños, a bit of sour cream and some salsa. The pinnacle of heavenly nacho experience however is added pulled pork/beef chilli, big blobs of guacamole and maybe some refried bean action. But this is just me being extra picky. God I love it.

Paul Sinton-Hewitt’s parkrun talk: I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this on the blog yet! So PSH, the parkrun Founder, came to the Southampton Solent University to do a talk on how parkrun got started. I was on it like a car bonnet. Obviously I love parkrun so this was right up my street.My friend Joe and I went together and we met up with the lovely Rebecca (from Lee-On-Solent parkrun fame) and her husband and we had a thoroughly enjoyable evening hearing all the inside scoop on parkrun.I had never properly heard how it had started – and never knew it had been originally called Timetrial before someone advised him to change the name. And I never knew that Coca-Cola have attempted three times to sponsor them (with an “open chequebook”!) and they’ve turned them down each time because the ethos of the company doesn’t mesh well with parkrun. How cool is that??PSH was very inspiring but I also saw a side of him I didn’t really know about before (not that I know him properly at all… just bits and pieces I’ve heard). He’s quite ruthless and has a steely determination. I mean, I guess he had to be in order to keep it going and to make the hard decisions that needed to be made. But still, what a guy eh!

Frank the plant: And finally… I now have a desk plant. I’ve wanted one for ages weirdly (mainly gorwing out of a dinosaur plantar pot if I’m honest) and then our office building had some plant people in and they were giving away free plants. I hot-footed it quickly to grab myself one and I named it Frank.Apparently it’s a jade tree plant, which is essentially a “starter” plant for idiots. It’s tough to kill it basically. This is ideal for this gardening novice!

Do you enjoy gardening?

Do you have a current food obsession right now?

Do you like horror films?

Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp 2018 – part 1

After a morning in Geneva, James and I headed to the airport once again to then fly to Austria where we met up with fellow Marathon Talkers ready for the Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp.

I went to last year’s Austria Run Camp so I was at somewhat of an advantage, knowing what to expect. There were a few others returning as well so I was excited to see them and to meet the new people. As expected, everyone was absolutely lovely. So many different backgrounds and experience with running, it was just so interesting chatting to everyone. It was also lovely to see Rob, who looks after the lodge we stay in, and his now partner Fiona. They got together after the trip last year when she was one of the campers! How sweet is that? They’re both such lovely people, they’re very well suited.Anyway, so after a rather carsick-inducing minibus ride to the lodge (oh those winding roads…), we arrived in Styria.The accommodation is a beautiful former hunting lodge and still very much rocking those themes with antlers all over the place and old fashioned furniture and wood-everything. My room was gorgeous and had such a beautiful view out to the front. I even had my own bathroom which was great.After having some welcome drinks and meeting everyone properly, we then headed out for a gentle 5k run (two laps of the lake which was literally just outside the villa). It was a beautiful evening and everyone was in such good spirits. Beautiful views, lovely people and five days ahead of running to look forward to. What could be better?The next morning a few of us decided to get up a bit earlier, before breakfast, to have a quick dip in the lake. I mean, it was VERY quick. The temperature of the lake was absolutely baltic – far colder than last year. It seemed that Austria hadn’t quite been hit with the same heat wave as Britain had and while it was certainly warm and sunny, this hadn’t affected the lake that much.It was a fun experience nonetheless. Breakfast, like all the meals, were a communal affair in the big dining room.

The first run was a relatively gentle 7.5 miles to Annaberg, the nearby little town. This run was a steady uphill climb but it was lovely and relaxed and I felt strong and happy. The temperature was lovely and warm and it was sunny – I was glad to have remembered sun ran lotion! We stopped at a little spring to grab some water. It was cold and refreshing.This run was great because it allowed us to all chat and get to know each other. It was also nice to catch up with old running friends – some I made on last year’s Austria trip or other Marathon Talk meet-ups. Everyone was super friendly, the views were fantastic and it was just everything I love about running. No one caring about paces or minding to stop for photos. We eventually arrived at Annaberg (*cough* clearly my home town, eh). And we had a coffee and shared round some cake.Then we were back on the road to head back to the lodge. This was 6.4 miles, and started with a lovely downhill but then a fairly hilly climb. Basically most of the running we did was very lumpy! And while it was challenging, it was good fun.We had a great downhill section back to the lake which a few of us steamed off the front to stretch the legs a bit. I had the route on my watch (technology, eh!) and while I did stress to everyone I was probably the last person you’d want to trust with the navigation, we did manage to get back. I know, I’m as surprised as you. We got to the lake and immediately stripped off a few layers and got into the cold water. It was lovely!

And then it was a quick march back to the lodge for lunch. Lunch was always a buffet affair with mostly cold meats, cheeses, salads and garlic bread. It filled a hole! We also had a good rule that no phones were to be used at the dinner table. This made sure that we didn’t switch off from each other. It was a good reminder to put the screens away and enjoy each other’s company. At first I was a bit twitchy (the self-confessed phone addict that I am…) but afterwards it became more natural. Rather than checking out my Strava of the run or going onto Instagram pointlessly, I chatted more and appreciated the time away. Don’t get my wrong, I still Instagrammed the shit out of everything but just not when I was sat around other people in times of chatting and being social! 😉

In the mornings I got myself into a nice routine of waking up a bit earlier and doing a lap’s walk round the lake. It was about a half an hour walk and I found it helped loosen up my legs from the previous day’s run (something that became more needed as the week went on!) and it was a lovely peaceful time to listen to a podcast or music. I would often do an afternoon walk as well. As much as it’s lovely to be around interesting and like-minded people, it’s also nice to take some time out and just reflect on the day and have some “me time”. That sounds a bit “out there” but it’s something I really enjoy and why (amongst hundreds of other reasons) that I love having a dog.Anyway after my walk and breakfast, we headed out to Gemeindealpe where we caught a ski lift up to a half-way point of this very scenic mountain. Then we ran just over a mile basically straight up.I say run, there was lots of walking as well! And handily timed photo stops 😉Like many of the other runs we did this week, it was the same as last year, but this is no way made it any less beautiful or fun (/hard). It just meant I knew what was to come.We made it to the top, had a nice little break taking photos and having a drink in the café… and a bit of fun in the children’s park (possibly the most scenic children’s play area around) before heading off to then run across a ridge and then down the mountain.
It was SO much fun. This was possibly my favourite day (though it’s a tough call). The run downhill started on compacted stony tracks but then descended into a forest and it was all about tiny quick steps across stones and branches. You had to use so much concentration to focus on not missing a step, not tripping over and not twisting an ankle. I loved it! Again a few of us stretched out ahead – but it’s OK guys, I’ve got the route on my watch! No problem!Except we did in fact go the wrong way when we reached the bottom. In fairness, it wasn’t entirely clear which direction we were supposed to go… as we got closer to the lake that sat at the bottom of the mountain I realised we’d made the wrong decision (I say “we” to shift some blame but realistically we all know this was my fault). It was fiiine. All we had to do was wade across a river, climb over a precariously built tall fence and then hack our way through a forest of giant leafy (and stinging) plants. Totally fine. Our Strava Flybe was somewhat amusing it must be said….Anyway everyone arrived at the lake safe and sound in the end – a solid seven miles. We were all very hot. The lake looked very inviting. And so did the giant slide! OK it might have been for kids but this didn’t hold us back. A bunch of us (yes Martin included) headed immediately for the slide. Bloody fantastic! And this lake was a lot less cold than our lake (not warm! But definitely a few degrees higher). Then we chilled with ice cream and a cold drink. I mean, what better way to finish a run eh?That evening we chilled out watching the football with two giant bowls of crisps. Brilliant.The next day we had intervals planned. Now I know I’ve been on it with speed work fairly recently but with my calf being a bit sensitive and knowing that I would be doing so many miles on running over the week I decided it would be best if I didn’t do them. This might sound a little like I chickened out (and you’d probably be half right) but realistically it was me being a sensible runner. I know my body and I know when my calf is feeling sensitive the last thing to do is bosh out a load of sprinting. Plus I was in a certain frame of mind where I needed to get away from everyone for a bit and do a bit of solo running. Some escapism and Anna-only time.I ran with the guys to the spot where they’d be doing the intervals and then I headed out for a 10k run of my own. I was a bit dubious that I’d get lost on my own but I had a fairly simple out-and-back planned (if in doubt, Anna, always do an out-and-back). It was such a lovely run on my own. It was along a track under the trees and relatively flat until it got to a rather grueling hill. It didn’t go on for too long though thankfully and then there was a glorious stretch of downhill which I gently plodded down, rather than powering down as I had the day before. This run was about the chill and ‘clearing my mind’ factor. A very lovely and gentle run, far better for my mind and body than blasting out crazy sprints.Afterward I watched the end of the intervals and then we all headed to the nearby café (the only café within a short distance of the lodge) and had a cold drink and cake with everyone.That evening we had a fantastic BBQ (which included some locally roaming venison). We chilled, we chatted, and of course we ate 😀
What I love about the Austria Run Camp is that it’s very much not just about the running. Yes the running is important of course but realistically by lunchtime we’re usually done. It’s just nice to chat to other runners from all walks of life in a relaxed and beautiful environment. I would find myself taking an impromptu nap on the sofa in the living room or chatting to Martin and the others about the pros and cons of social media, or lounging in the sunshine on the terrace just watching the world go by (and a very slow-paced world so far away from the crazy busy world I normally live in).The running was done in a relaxed way, nothing set in stone, nothing dictated… no real structured training or seriousness. This is the kind of running I love. I’ll leave my recap there for now…

Have you ever been to Austria?

Do you enjoy more structured or relaxed training?

Have you ever been to a training camp?

Geneva and parkrun du Lac de Divonne

I am back from my holiday adventures! I have so much to talk about I don’t even know where to begin.

I’ll start with my little trip to Geneva. James and I arrived in Geneva Friday evening. Our hotel was actually in France though (Geneva is right next to the border). We got a taxi and headed for the nearest restaurant that would still be open (funnily enough, it was an America-style grill place) and then we had to lug our bags a mile to the hotel afterwards. It was a bit of a ball ache it must be said but hey ho. The little town we stayed in was very pretty and ridiculously French – like you definitely knew you were in France! It was gorgeous.

The next morning was the time time for me to execute my genius “get to parkrun” plan. The nearest one was the parkrun du Lac de Divonne (again located in France). There weren’t any buses that came near our hotel and went to the parkrun which caused some complications but I’d found that in Geneva you could hire bikes for free. Geneva was only four miles from our hotel so the plan was to run in, grab the bikes and then cycle the roughly 11 miles to parkrun. Eeeeeeasy. Simple!

The four miles (which I’d already planned out and put onto my watch before the trip – check me out being all organised) were super easy. A real novelty was running through a tunnel which went under the Geneva airport runway which was rather cool – and ran from France into Switzerland. One for the memories!

We passed the Place des Nations with all the flags lined up at the front. There was also the Broken Chair in front and the water fountain things.I didn’t realise but the Broken Chair was to commemorate the landmine victims and encourage countries to prohibit their use. Quite poignant.Because we were there so early there weren’t many people. It was nice to see some of the key touristy areas in the quieter times. And obviously get good photo opportunities! And then we got back to running to the bike hire place, which was about a mile or so away.The bike hire spot took a bit of time to actually find. And then we found it was closed and not open until 8am which was about 15 minutes away and meaning that suddenly 11 miles on a hired bike was going to be quite the ask. When we finally got inside the shop we were then informed that we’d need ID. Ah. We had money and our phones, but no ID. No bikes for us then.

I take the full responsibility for this idiotic planning because, let’s face it, it was my fault for not checking the website (standard Anna-ism). After some discussion we decided to just take the hit and call an Uber – annoyingly now to be more expensive than if we’d have just done that from the hotel as we were now further away. Oh well, the things you do for parkrun tourism eh (ironically a free 5k event…).We arrived in good time and had a wander around the lake and then a quick visit to the single public toilet. The toilet was very odd. When it flushed it apparently washed out the entire room… you needed to make sure that you weren’t in there when that happened basically.We then headed over to the start…to find that we were surrounded by quite a few fellow Brits. In fact, there were so many British people compared to the French locals that it felt like the Benidorm of parkrun. That said, it was interesting to have the parkrun course explained in both French and English. Very cool.Then we were off. The parkrun was super flat. It was basically an out and back along the tarmac road next to the lake. It was very pretty but completely out of any shade and, as it was a rather hot and sunny day, this was quite taxing. I wanted to try hard but I just couldn’t seem to get my legs to go particularly fast (relative to what I’ve previously been running). I felt a little bit demoralised and that I’d wasted a decent course. But then I told myself to get over myself and just enjoy running in a different country in a beautiful place. Perspective certainly helps!

So I whipped out my phone for some mid race snaps. I find this is a sure fire way to turn a hard run into an enjoyable experience. It takes the pressure off and I started enjoying myself a lot more.The finish line was a long straight strip of road which was great if you fancied yourself a sprint finish but reminded me horribly of the long and never-ending finish of the Dubai Marathon… *shudders*.Anyway I finished in 22:43 and first female. Though the field was very small – there were only 50 or so people actually running in total. I also came 6th as well which is definitely my best position ever.

From the parkrun website they’d mention a café and given some directions so James and I headed over there – which was quite a walk. When we got there we realised it was part of a small children’s adventure park thing. We could see a café inside but the whole place was locked until 10am. So we hung around until they opened up. We were hoping to get some food but, using my very limited French (i.e. “petit déjeuner?”), we found they were only serving drinks. Well, the server did offer me Tiramisu but I politely declined.

We then tried the second café that was given on the website… another long walk away. But we eventually arrived and found the only place to buy food was a bakery. We could buy something from there and then sit in the café next door with a coffee and eat it (apparently a very acceptable thing to do). Obviously I wasn’t expecting a greasy spoon but I did fancy something a bit more than a croissant or cake (shocking I know).

I managed to get myself a beef and cheese panini though and that helped tame the runger. Because we’d faffed so much with the different cafés we found the other parkrunners had since left. This was somewhat problematic for us later when we could have done with a bit of advice on how to get back…

Uber apparently did not want to pick us up from our location. To be fair, we were in a fairly quiet a remote French village. The thought of having problems getting back to our hotel hadn’t really crossed my mind. Now, as we started walking around the small town, it suddenly became apparent that this was a very real situation. Having previously checked for bus routes as a method to get to parkrun, I knew there would be no direct or easy route through public transport. And we certainly couldn’t find any bus stops with anything remotely near our destination. Right.

After getting not much help from two police men who spoke limited English (but were very nice) we felt a bit stuck. Two stupid Brits with no local knowledge or French… our own fault but frustrating nonetheless. We asked in a local café and the waiter, though friendly, wasn’t entirely helpful. He sort of shrugged in that very French way. He did eventually give me two numbers to try ringing for a taxi. Neither of which were any good – one couldn’t understand my request and the other laughed saying he wasn’t a taxi.

Panic now set in a little. It was over eight miles back and getting very hot. Sure we could run back but having run seven miles and feeling quite exhausted by the whole charade that morning, neither of us fancied it. Walking would be ridiculous too. Both our phone batteries were getting dangerous low and we decided to stop using them for anything other than emergency map use.

Finally we found a hotel and managed to beg the owner to ring us a taxi. She was super helpful and very apologetic when she told us it would be 50 Euros to get back. Well we had no choice! What a mess eh?

We did manage to arrive safely back at the hotel. Thank God. Another one for the Anna Book of Idiocy… but HEY I got a cool parkrun done!! Swings and roundabouts.For the rest of the day we spent walking round Geneva in the sunshine. Handily we’d gotten a decent piece of information from the taxi driver who told us about a place called Plainpalais where we could watch the football in a big outdoors area with food and drink.

I’ve been really enjoying the World Cup and as it was Argentina vs. France it was definitely a game to catch, being that we were right on the French border as well. The atmosphere was bound to be good.

We arrived luckily about 10 minutes before the match began and then queued to get in. I was highly affronted when the security guard told me I wasn’t allowed to take my apple in with me (no food and drink other than what you buy within apparently). I was so annoyed at having to throw a perfectly good apple away (I even offered to her but she didn’t fancy it. Hmm). Luckily though she was too concerned with the one apple in my hand she didn’t spot the other one hidden away in the depths of my handbag. Always good to have a safety apple 😉

James and I found ourselves two decent seats next to pop-up bar in the shade and settled in to watch the match.We had a few beers and enjoyed the atmosphere and cheering. It was good fun. By half time though we were both fairly hungry, having not eaten since ‘breakfast’ and it was now closing into the evening.We found ourselves a pizzeria (that happily had a TV) and continued watching there before moving on to a crêperie for some crêpes (when near France, eh). I had a delicious chocolate brownie one.
It was divine. By this point I was steadily becoming rather merry – being quite the lightweight and having being drinking on an empty stomach.

We watched the next match in the evening before calling it a day and heading back to a bus to take us back to the hotel. By the time we arrived back at the hotel (after passing through a weird carnival in the local town where our hotel was – very trippy in my tipsy state) we’d done over 42,000 steps. Jeeze. I was absolutely shattered!

Have you ever been to Geneva?

Would you have paid for a taxi to get to the parkrun?

Have you been enjoying the football?