Zary parkrun

When I first decided to fully embrace the parkrun Alphabet Challenge I quickly realised it would not be an easy thing to accomplish. Well, easy in terms of it’s just a series of 5k runs you complete over a period of time, no closer together than a week. But logistically it’s a lot more tricky.

The only letter I had left was the infamous Z. I mean technically I still have X left, but so does everyone else. A parkrun beginning with the letter X does not exist… YET. So for the moment, I just had Z. And the easiest and most cost-effective location to achieve this was Poland (otherwise it’s New Zealand or South Africa). So hence why I found myself in Zary, Poland.Saturday morning Kyle and I woke up at the not too early time of 8am. Happily our hotel (ApartHotel) was located just ten minutes away from the parkrun. We decided to give ourselves a decent window though in case something happened (likely another Anna-related incident of some sort). But I’d Google Earthed the location, I knew exactly how to get there and I was feeling confident.So at 8.30am we headed out and 8.40am we had arrived in the correct car park staring at the parkrun flag. WE HAD MADE IT.It was quite chilly, though thankfully not raining, so we decided to stay in the warm car for a little longer as there weren’t that many people there yet.By absolute amazing chance we happened to be there the weekend Poland was celebrating their 100th anniversary of independence, and to celebrate (we had to translate their Facebook page to find this out) they had encouraged people to come dressed in white and red.As we only found this out the evening before we were a bit stuck with what we had packed and neither of us had anything white or red so sadly we could only observe the celebrations rather than fully join in. We saw people arrived, and pretty much all of them wearing something red and/or white and with hats and flags. It was fantastic!They had music going (basically a loop of the Star Wars bar scene) and a very festive and friendly atmosphere. It quickly became apparently though that we were the least dressed in our t-shirts and shorts. Everyone else was wearing leggings. A girl looked at me, sort of laughed (in a nice way), pointing to my legs and said something in Polish. I assume she said something like, “why on earth are you wearing shorts? Aren’t you cold, you weirdo!”.We had a big group photo which was nice to be involved in (photo above from their Facebook page). It felt a little bit awkward being there and not being able to speak Polish – a bit like outsiders coming in to a community! But we didn’t feel unwelcome, just a bit bewildered.

I was a bit chilly but it wasn’t nearly *that* bad. I was actually fine in my shorts! What was cool was on the map for the park area we were going to be running through the parkrun course was written up and (I assume) explained in more detail on a proper board that remained there all the time.After more people had arrived a woman led a warm-up. There were lots of squats, lunges and things like that. Everyone got involved – including us of course.I spotted a little Westie running around the place and I tried to make friends but it was too busy dashing around. It was very cute (he/she who knows!).And then we made our way to the start. I’d already got an idea of what the course would be like from my parkrun friend Paul Jeffrey’s blog so I knew it would be completely off-road, slightly undulating and tricky underfoot. No PB attempts today 😉We headed off to the start. There weren’t a huge number of people (80 in total) so I shuffled near the front. And then we were off!The course was beautiful. As you can see in the pictures it was very misty and eerie looking which made it even more pretty as it contrasted with the colours of the trees and the leaves on the ground.I found myself quite near the front as we spread out. I was about fourth and hanging on nicely to the chaps in front of me. The lead runner was miles ahead though never to be seen again (he did 17:24!). There were no marshals on the route but the route was marked clearly with the long tape and signs on the trees.I just followed the guys in front. I wanted to push myself that morning and try and go for a faster time but it was tough work on the uneven ground and the slightly undulating course. I was enjoying myself though. The course was basically all through the wooded area on a rough trail. It was lovely.I managed to overtake one guy just ahead before the finish and snag myself into 3rd place (never been so high in positioning before!). There was a final little hill and then a nice decline back the way we’d come (the whole course was one loop which is always a nice change) and then went past the timekeeper who handed me my token – no finish funnel as such. My time was 21:40 – not too shabby! Kyle came in in 9th in 23:16. He took it a bit more leisurely and stopped to take some photos (he’s still being very cautious about his previous shin injury – though it does seem to be fine now thankfully).At the end we were given a bag of those really yummy soft gingerbread biscuits, Polish flags and mugs. It was lovely! I tried to tell the Run Director that we’d come from England and we had really enjoyed it and while she didn’t seem to fully understand (likewise me to her Polish!) she smiled and nodded.The man I’d overtaken at the end came up to me and shook my hand. We managed to bumble through swapping names and ages (using our hands!). He was 65 and looked very happy that he was just behind a 30 year old, bless him.

Then we headed off back to the hotel. I was so chuffed to have done the parkrun. SO chuffed. Finally complete, woohoo! We showered, checked-out and then headed to a nearby little restaurant for breakfast (basically I Googled restaurants that would do Polish breakfast and handily there was a quaint one a short walk away). It was a lovely restaurant, buy very quiet.We ordered a set breakfast and then you could add on an item to it from a list. Kyle chose pancakes whereas I chose sausages.We got bread, jam, honey, butter, pate, cheese and salad bits. It was delicious. My sausages were so good as well (they had a bit of a smokey taste to them).Kyle said his pancakes, which were very much more European style pancakes than American ones, were overly sweet but nice. Just a bit too sweet for first thing!Then we headed outside to wander around Zary a bit more before we needed to drive back to Berlin to catch our flight.There wasn’t a great amount to see, as Zary was a small quiet town but there were flags everywhere celebrating the 100 years of independence.We had a lovely coffee in a little cafe and then headed back on the road. Zary was lovely and I am beyond pleased to have compelted the parkrun Alphabet Challenge. I had so much fun going to different parkruns all over the place, exploring new areas, seeing friends and just having a great time. I will definitely be continuing my tourism, but I need to think of a new challenge!

Are you doing the Alphabet Challenge?

Do you like to do challenges like this?

My trip to Berlin and Poland

So the time had come to finally make my journey to collect my final letter for the parkrun Alphabet Challenge. I wanted to get this done before the end of the year for arbitrary reasons and because it’s getting cold.Kyle humoured me in joining me – he’s good like that 😉 And we flew to Berlin Tegel from Gatwick on a Thursday evening. Now I had only just got back from New York Tuesday morning so this was quite the turnaround for me!

It has been a while since any Anna-Related Incidents have occurred so it was only right for one to crop up. Everything had been going all fine and dandy until we reached the car hire place in the airport. I was down to drive the car (Kyle doesn’t have a car licence – he rides a motorbike instead). So when the man behind the counter says, “Can I see your driving licence?” I had a sudden feeling that someone had poured cold water over me. Driving licence… ah yes. That thing I did not pack.

I turned round to Kyle and said “I’ve forgotten my driving licence”. Kyle, bless his heart, has the patience of a saint and just sighed a little. When I asked the man what would happen if I didn’t have my licence he looked at Kyle and asked if he could drive instead. Kyle showed him his licence, technically not lying by saying nothing, and the man nodded and said “OK, he drives then. You just need to pay the extra fee for changing the driver”. Riiiight. Seems legit. I tentatively asked if I could still drive the car (remember, Kyle can’t actually drive) and the man said “Sure, but I didn’t say it”. OK then. We paid the added fee of being able to take the car out of Germany and £100 later we were out of there (I paid £61 for my mistake – ouch).

We arrived at our hotel, nicely located less than three miles from the Brandenburg Gate, and got very lucky with finding the last parking space where we wouldn’t have to pay. Thank god. The hotel was called, wait for it… Apple City. I mean, how perfect right? They did indeed have apples in the lobby.

So the next morning we woke up early and headed out for a gentle plod round the sights of Berlin. Genuinely I was so chuffed with where the hotel was located. It was a lovely run along the Spree River to get to the Tiergarten.The autumnal colours were beautiful and we stopped several times to take photos and enjoy our surroundings. I love runs like this.We ran to the Brandenburg Gate and then to the Reichstag building and it brought back all the memories of running the Berlin Marathon.It was nice to get some photos without hoards of people milling about.It was also nice to finally get to showcase my new New York Marathon vest that I got at the expo (love the colour!). Kyle and I took the run nice and gently and ran just over 5 miles in the end. A lovely start to the day – and a great way to tick off some “must-sees”.We then got showered and ready and headed out to walk the way we ran to get back to the centre. After numerous recommendations from people, we decided on the Steel Vintage Bikes cafe for brunch.It was such a unique and cool place. There were bikes hanging from the walls, the artwork was really cool and even in the bathroom the tiles had little bikes on them. The service was super friendly and the menu looked great. I went for a tea and it came out in this very cute little teapot and cup affair. For food I had scrambled egg and we shared some maple bacon pancakes (which also came with scrambled egg).Brunch was really tasty and helped fuel us on our Berlin wanderings. We went to Checkpoint Charlie, the Jewish Memorial and the big cinema area where they have all the premiers.

I was so chuffed as there was a small Christmas market around that area and I was able to grab myself a chocolate covered apple (something I adore – can you quite believe, eh?).We then walked to the Berlin Mall where I was amazed to see that there was a slide that you could take from the third floor to the ground floor!I mean, how cool is that? Of course I had to give it a whirl. After that we walked back to the hotel.We passed a small bakery and we couldn’t help but buy a delicious looking iced thing (I have no idea what it was but it looked amazing) and a pretzel.It was delicious! And so lovely to sit outside this very small German bakery and enjoy the chilly but lovely weather.

We then packed up and got going to Zary. Driving through Berlin was a little bit stressful (not to mention being on the “wrong” side of the road and using the wrong hand to change gear) but we made it onto the autobahn. The road to Zary from Berlin is basically all motorway and one long road. It was very dull driving but with good company and good music (and a pretzel) it flew by.

When we arrived in Zary (blink-and-you’ll-miss-it size of town) it was dark and very misty. I’m not going to lie, it was quite eerie. Almost like we’d wandered into a horror movie.Big pine trees towering over long dark roads, not many people about with oldie-worldie feels.That said, we checked in to our very lovely ApartHotel and everyone was met was very friendly (that we could tell, to be honest most people couldn’t speak English and we ca’t speak Polish).

We checked in and then headed out to walk to the local town (a 5 minute walk) to find some dinner. We happened upon a pizzeria. I mean, there wasn’t a huge choice of restaurants because Zary is a small town but this place was fantastic. The menu was great (they had an English version, hurrah!) and the pizzas we had were very tasty and not to mention ridiculously cheap.We both had large pizzas and a beer each and it came to £8, which is insanely good for a restaurant meal! It was very tasty as well (even if we weren’t hugely hungry due to all the snacks and food we’d had earlier…).

Then we headed back to the hotel ready for a good night’s sleep before Zary parkrun…

Have you ever been to Berlin or Poland?

What is your brunch option of choice?

Have you ever driven abroad?

The New York Marathon – part 2

Carrying on my New York Marathon recap.

**Catch up with Part 1 HERE**

So I had just come off from the (dreaded) Queensboro Bridge and the mile slog that had entailed. Coming out of that silence and tough effort onto a nice decline and then straight into the busy streets of New York again was fantastic. It was almost nice to have had that respite of silence to fully appreciate the crowds again.

The sun was still shining, I was feeling a bit warm but nothing crazy. Now from 17 miles to 21 miles it was literally straight down First Avenue. It was also gently downhill. So with the crowds and the now wonderful feeling of no longer being on a bridge grinding upwards, I was flying along. I started to wonder what time I might get… sub 3:30? Could I do it?My pace was dangerous but I felt good. Now we were in Manhattan. I was still having the time of my life, waving at crowds, smiling and just being on top of the world. A woman in the crowd pointed at me and shouted “Anna you are STRONG” and in my happy little mind I thought “yes, yes I am!”.I find with marathons that it really helps to smile, even if you’re not feeling it. It tricks you into thinking it’s going OK and it boosts the crowds to cheer you. I definitely felt boosted!

I hadn’t paid enough attention to what Charlie and Anna had said before the race about where they were going to stand and clearly got confused because I thought they were going to be at mile 19… but they actually said they were going to be at mile 24. So at mile 19 I was looking for them but obviously didn’t see them. I’m annoyed that I didn’t listen properly because had I have known I would have looked at 24!

But around mile 19 we passed the area where our AirBnb was – and “our” Dunkin Donuts that we’d been going to. I suppose to anyone else it would have just been another Dunkin Donuts but to me it was like “ahhh! Familiar places!” and was a really nice moment. I knew where I was!At 20 miles I felt a new lease of life. Like I’m almost there. Less than hour I’ll be done! I put some high powered tunes on and focused on keeping going. I could barely hear my music though due to the crowds but it helped a little. Another bridge and we were into the Bronx, where I’d been told the support would thin out. I don’t feel like that was less support but I wondered just how more bridges to go and as we headed back to Manhattan I saw a sign that said “This is the last bridge!” and was SO grateful.

I remembered Charlie saying that mile 23 was the tough one. We’d run a bit of it the day before and it was literally all incline. It was a tough ask at this point. My legs still felt good, I was still buzzing but now my smile was occasionally a grimace as I knuckled down.

I started doing maths in my head for what time I thought I could get. Now I was wondering if a sub 3:25 would be on the cards. I was well over the mile markers possibly due to satellites or general drifting around the course so I made sure to try and work it out from an actual marker and not my watch. I was working out the eight times table in my head as I thought that was the easiest and most conservative.Charlie and Anna saw me (though I genuinely can’t remember seeing them) and they snapped two fantastic photos  which were better than any of the official ones.I was clearly in the zone! We got properly into Central Park and a man shouted to me “Hey Anna! Welcome to the Park!” and it was a really lovely moment. So random, but really lovely.And now I was on the struggle bus. Every 0.1 was a grind. I was holding on for dear life, pushing up the inclines and trying to fly down any declines. I knew the final 5k was going to be tough and it was. But though physically it was hard, I was still happy. Yes, happy that the finish was soon but also because the crowds were just amazing and I was smashing it. The finis line was after a grueling final uphill and I (gratefully) crossed the line 3:21:29, 3713/52697 overall, 116/3544 in my age group, 205/1812 Brit. Pretty cool! I was over the moon and honestly quite shocked how I’d managed to do that – and how I’d found it a lot easier than the previous Goodwood Marathon which was around 5 minutes slower. It just shows what a fantastic course and cheering crowd can do!I shuffled through the finish area and the sunshine and felt wonderful. My dad rung me straight away – he must have got notified I’d finished. I chatted to him very briefly as I realised I only had under 20% battery left and still needed to navigate my way back. I wanted to speak to Kyle but kept it sensible by using WhatsApp rather than drain any more battery.

Charlie had given me the AirBnb key as it was likely I’d be the first to finish. I hadn’t really planned what i was going to do after the race… but I knew Steph was going to head and find an apparently very popular pie straight after.She had luckily managed to get into Wave 1 so had started ahead of me and though she was taking the race as a training run (I think she did 3:50ish) finished around the same time as me. Very handy! Especially as I really didn’t know how to get back. I was going to walk using my phone to navigate but at this point I don’t think it was going to last.So I headed to pick up my amazing poncho and goodie bag. The poncho…well I can’t even explain how decent it is!It’s huge, waterproof, with a fleecy lining and a hood. I won’t be throwing this away anytime soon. It was part of my package (I bought my place and flights for the marathon with 209 events – I fully recommend them) but  believe you do have to pay extra to get it.

I met up with Steph (thank god!) and she took me to the amazing Milk Bar for some post marathon treats. Steph is very much into her food like I am so she a good person to be around at this point 😉

The Milk Bar was tricky to find and tiny. Once inside though, we had to wait in a quite a long queue – clearly a popular spot!Steph assured me the thing to order was the Crack Pie (real name), which I was totally game for.And I also bought some Birthday Cake Truffles.We then shuffled to the Subway to head home. Countless random people congratulated us – it was brilliant. In fact, we passed the Trump building where people were protesting outside and watched a very heated and sweary shouting match between a protester and a passerby. As we walked past the protester immediately softened his voice and said “Congratulations, girls!” it was quite amusing.

A this point neither of us had sat down since the Staten Island ferry – remember, we didn’t even sit on the bus! My legs were dunzo. I was exhausted. I almost cried when we got onto the metro and saw a rather shifty and possibly high/drunk guy sit sprawled out on the only two seats left on the train.

A wonderful woman noticed and promptly berated the man to stand up and let us sit down, “These girls have just run the MARATHON”. He quickly hopped up and we were able to sit down. I was so grateful to that lady!

We FINALLY got back to the AirBnb and the two of us happily sat and scoffed our pies and a numerous number of grapes (so refreshing). I had a glorious shower and then enjoyed seeing each of the other girls come in and swapping marathon stories with them. Everyone had had a good (albeit tough of course) race. Hurrah!

That evening we went out for Mexican food at Tolouche and celebrated happily together. I’ve never seen guacamole be demolished as quickly as it was though! The tortilla chips were hot and the guac was INSANELY good.For my main, I went for some sort of pulled short rib thing on a tortilla. It hit the spot.Of course we all wore our medals! Though I would have liked to have had a giant pudding of some sort I sensibly followed suite of the majority ruling (post marathon tummy is a delicate thing). We were all grateful to head to bed early that night – Anna and Charlie as well, they’d walked and cheered for silly lengths of time!Genuinely, the New York Marathon is my favourite marathon yet. I felt amazing both physically and mentally. I literally LOVED it. Yes there were tough moments but I remember distinctly thinking several times “I love this” as I was running. Having no time goals or pressures definitely helped. The crowds HUGELY helped. The sights and the sheer amazingness of New York helped. My only sadness is my family and Kyle were so far away, but I had some great new friends who helped make it very special.Next up… Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in December!

Have you ever run the New York Marathon?

What’s your favourite race?

What food do you like post-race?

**Check out Charlie’s blog for details about future running-related trips she’s organising!**

New York, New York

New York, where do I even start? I’ll be doing the marathon recap soon, but for now I’ll just recap the days before, because they were pretty cool too.

So this trip was organised by the lovely Charlie (aka @TheRunnerBeans of blog and Insta fame). I’d briefly met her before and she seemed lovely but I’d not met the other girls who were going to be on the trip too. We’d “met” through social media and chatted via there but I hadn’t actually met them. We created a WhatsApp group and chatted there a bit more, but there was still a little bit of nervousness… would they like me? Would I get on with them? Was I cool enough? I needn’t have worried about whether the girls would be nice or not – Charlie, Anna, Elaine, Cortney, Steph and Emma were all just so lovely.On Friday morning my lovely dad drove me to the airport where I met with Emma, the only one who was one the same flight as me. I was SO pleased to have someone on the same flight who also needed to get to the same place on the other side as me because, let’s be honest, I’m a complete numpty and would probably get very lost on my own. Especially as I was trying to save some money and not just get a taxi from the airport to the AirBnb. And Emma was the nicest person – I’m so glad we met! 😀The flight was long (ehhh 8 hours) but we managed to zip so quickly through security in JFK and grab our bags super fast. This is almost unheard of for flights into the States – it usually takes forever! We then rushed to get the right train to the subway so we could get to the marathon expo that evening before it shut. We were very much pushing it as it was now 6pm and the last entry into the expo was 7pm! By the time we got to Penn Station we literally had to run (with our suitcases!) down the streets (in the rain!) to get there. It was epic – the only way to describe it. We got to the expo minutes before 7pm, saw Charlie who was meeting us there and dropped our suitcases with her while we raced in.We picked up our bibs and then picked up our finisher’s t-shirt (women sizes hurrah!). We could do the expo on Saturday (the next day) but we really wanted to make sure we got our bibs and that bit sorted in case any plans changed the next day or it was a faff to get back to.The expo was very quiet though so it was super fast to do everything we needed. We wandered round the merch area and I bought myself a vest. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the selection. I’m not a huge New Balance fan and the stuff wasn’t really my sort of thing. I’m really pleased with the vest but nothing else appealed. The expo itself was pretty cool though in this giant glass building.There were lots of stalls but we decided to head back out to Charlie as she was waiting and we were going to head to dinner with the other girls. It was very late to us at this point (New York was four hours apart at this point – the daylight savings would happen Sunday morning) but we were running on adrenaline and excitement. We met the other girls at 5 Napkin Burger, which was very cool indeed.I ordered chicken wings (had to be done!) and sweet potato fries and enjoyed finally chatting to the other girls, who had arrived at different times. The chicken wings were delicious of course.And then we headed to the Airbnb and could finally CHILL. It had been a very long day! The Airbnb was INCREDIBLE. It was a proper townhouse affair, with three stories and four bedrooms. It was really quite big. The downstairs was an open plan living room, dining room and kitchen, so it felt very social.

Charlie had given us all a little goodie bag of treats as well, which was just so lovely. We had a t-shirt with New York and the skyline stitched onto it, a hairband with New York Marathon 2018 written on it, a Nuun water bottle and some Nuun, some peanut butter M&M’s and some trail mix (something we don’t really get in the UK).It was a lovely welcome! Then we headed to bed and I fell asleep very quickly! Though we’d planned to have a lovely lie-in in the morning, jet lag had other ideas and most of us woke up very early. We had a quick little walk to the very local Dunkin Donuts and got a coffee and some of the mini bite-size doughnuts (I want to say munchkins?). Then we all got ready for a shake-out run that would take us to brunch.Anna, Charlie’s friend, is an amazing photographer and does lots of Charlie’s photos for her and was planning on taking photos for us during our trip. It was really quite cool. We’d get some get photos of us running in New York that weren’t blurred or just selfies, it was fantastic!I did feel a little self-conscious, but Anna was great and how could the photos not be good with the scenery being as beautiful as it was with the autumnal colours!We ran to Central Park which was, as you can imagine, just so beautiful and so packed full of other runners! If you weren’t a runner you’d really want to be after being surrounded by so many of them!In the end I ran about 5.5 miles, which was more than I probably would have done on my own and the day before a marathon but it was a gentle pace and my legs enjoyed the stretching out after all the travel. And then we arrived at brunch at P.J Clarke’s. Charlie had previously sent out an invite to any runners who wanted to join and I think there were about 30 of us in total! It was mental. But everyone was so nice and super excited about the marathon the next day.

I love in the above photo how I’m not even caring about the photo, I’m more interested in the menu

For brunch I had toast, ham, poached eggs, tomato and Emma’s unwanted sausages (always surround yourself with people who are willing to share of give up their food ;-)).Charlie and Zoe (@MilesFitter) had done a fantastic job of arranging the brunch and we even got hats to commemorate the occasion.Emma, Elaine and I headed off after brunch to go and do some sight-seeing and to go back to the Expo for another longer mosey about. We didn’t go back to get changed first as we couldn’t be bothered and it wasn’t that cold – well, in the sun it was lovely! So first stop was Levain Bakery for some of the best cookies in New York (or so we had been told…).They sold lots of cakes but the cookie flavours were choc chip and walnut, peanut butter, double choc chip and oat and rasin. Well I was in a quandary of what to order as I wasn’t sure about the addition of walnuts into a cookie… and none of the others really took my fancy. I asked the guy behind the counter and he fully recommended the choc chip and walnut as that’s what they’re famous for apparently. I decided to also order the oat and raisin because that’s always a good one, if a little boring sometimes.I ate the choc chip one then and there – WARM. Oh my god I actually cannot explain just how fantastic this cookie was. It was so melty and gooey in the middle with a firm and crispy outer shell. So soft, so warm, so tasty. It was huge, but that’s the only way I like baked goods so that worked out nicely 😉 It took all the power in the world not to run back to the counter and order 15 more. I decided to save my oat and raisin for later…the will power I showed honestly astounds me.

We had a quick little mosey around Trader Joe’s (bought myself some of their incredible Everything But the Bagel seasoning). I do love looking round foreign super markets! And then we headed off to Time Square.I mean, obviously we just had to be a little touristy and because I’d suddenly, in the last few months, become quite the M&M fan and they have the huge M&M World there. Strangely I’m not a fan of the original M&M’s but the peanut ones, the crispy ones, the caramel ones… basically all the non-original ones I love. And it’s something a bit weird and special between Kyle and me so I thought I’d treat us to some to share (I must share, I must share, I must share…).Well, I got so excited in the M&M pick ‘n’ mix bit (OMG ALL THE FLAVOURS!!) I ended up spending $26.10! Though I have to say, I was only disappointed that it hadn’t come to $26.20… Needless to say I had quite a bag of M&M’s to take away with me (let’s pretend I didn’t go to Target later and buy some Halloween themed M&M’s as well…). ANYWAY.Then we headed to the Expo again where we could spend a bit more time looking around the different stalls (all the tasters… mmmm). I got a cool waterproof cover for my phone at the Strava stand and bought myself a GU gel. I love the GU gels – so thick and tasty. The flavours are incredible. My favourites are the maple bacon (yes yes I know, weird) and the salted caramel. Literally heavenly. This time I went for the birthday cake flavour (we just don’t have birthday cake flavours in the UK so it had to be done!). I was really intrigued to see that you could buy big containers full of GU as well that you could partition into re-usable plastic pouches. What a great idea! Though it did sound a little messy to me..I checked out the AMAZING Six Star Medal as well. Oh I can’t wait to get mine next year (if all goes well!) after Chicago. It’s just so exciting to me. I then added my words of wisdom to the wall of post-it notes (Steve Way’s classic “Don’t be shit”).Then we headed back to finally shower and think about dinner. We all decided to just chill and get dinner in rather than venture out again. I tried to use UberEats but failed so found myself a nearby Mexican and decided to go for that (God I love Mexican food) while everyone else either got something taken away from a local pizza place (Patsy’s Pizzeria) or were making their own dinner (the luxury of an AirBnb!).I enjoyed a salad topped with chicken, pork, avocado, sour cream, rice, tortilla chips and guacamole. It was delicious! I followed that with the oat and raisin cookie (which I microwaved to get warm again). Omg so good. Not quite as good as the one I’d had earlier but still delicious.I actually wasn’t feeling that nervous about the marathon the next day which was WEIRD. I was excited and looking forward to it. I really had no plans how I’d run. If I wanted to go fast, I would, If I wanted to plod along and enjoy everything, I would. It felt very eerie being as calm as I was. But it felt good. At the end of the day, I’d done this before (15 times!) and all I could do was my best. Whatever that might be.I hadn’t had a niggle in ages, I felt in good shape, I’d had a solid amount of decent food and I’d be running round somewhere new, beautiful and amazing. I’d say I was pretty nicely set-up to have a good run.

Have you ever been to New York?

Are you an M&M fan? What’s your favourite flavour?

Do you prefer an AirBnb or a hotel?

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?

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