Christmas and all that jazz

Ah what a shame it’s all over! Christmas is done and dusted.

I had a fantastic festive time, despite only getting the bank holiday days off (my own choice, granted). But otherwise it was brilliant. I spent it with my family, Kyle and Kyle’s family and it was honestly so lovely.

We all spent Christmas Eve altogether and it just made me feel all the warm and fuzzies. I’m a very family-centred person (how could I still live at home being the age I am if I didn’t get on with my parents so well??) so it’s important to me that Kyle gets on with my family and I get on adore his family, and the fact that they all get on together is just the cherry on top.

And of course over the Christmas period, I enjoyed so much good food… Christmas dinners, buffet fodder, chocolate (damn those chocolate sprouts from Fat Face were incredible), cheese (so much cheese) and everything between.

Kyle and I had a fantastic Christmas party with work – about one of the only times I drink and get a bit merry.

Meaning our fry up the next day at the local café Breezes in Hill Head was SO necessary.

And then we saw Star Wars (we enjoyed it but there are a few niggles). A perfect day off!

Christmas Day itself was lovely. Kyle and I headed to Christmas parkrun. I’ll do a more thorough post on my knee, but it felt OK beforehand so I thought I’d risk it as I so wanted to do the Christmas Day parkrun with Kyle.

We dressed as festively as we could be bothered and went to Lee-On-Solent parkrun rather than my usual Netley purely because it’s literally 5 minutes down the road whereas Netley is over 30 minutes away. Time is precious of Christmas Day, especially when the families are waiting for us!

We took the run quite easy. My knee is still not perfect but it didn’t hurt. My time was 25L50. Kyle forgot his barcode which pained my soul SO MUCH. He wouldn’t get his Christmas Day challenge! He’s also only two away from his 50…how frustrating!

Then we quickly headed back to my house to spend Christmas morning with my family. We opened presents, had Buck’s Fizz and it was lovely. Then Kyle headed back to his family and I cracked on to help my dad with the cooking, something we both really enjoy.

We had the usual roast turkey and all the trimmings which is just so good.

My one weird request is broad beans – I adore them

And then enjoyed a lovely post-food family walk before I headed off to Kyle’s to spend the rest of the day there. We played lots of games, watched Gavin and Stacey (BRILLIANT, fingers crossed for Series 4!) and ate a lot of chocolate and leftovers. Lovely 🙂

Boxing Day we went to Kyle’s dad’s house and I ate FAR too much cheese. Camembert, brie, goat’s cheese, stilton, cheddar… oh god I was pretty much 80% cheese afterwards. Loved it though.

Then I was back to work which royally sucked. But it was nice and quiet (although very dull) so it wasn’t too bad.

Unfortunately I did not do New Year’s Day double parkrun. I wanted to, don’t get me wrong, but it was the most sensible thing to do. My knee has good days and bad days. The good days are definitely outweighing the bad days but it’s just not ready to do two 5ks back to back.

Sure I could have done one but in the end we decided actually we’d just prefer a lie-in and laze about a bit – something we rarely do when I’m fully into my running. While it has been very sad not running, it has been nice enjoying these lazy weekends. We did however go to the gym instead. Not for any reason other than get a good sweat on and then justifiably laze about more 😉

And now it’s back to the grind, back to business and hopefully on to a stronger, healthier 2020. Running, I will be back!

How did you spend Christmas?

What’s your favourite Christmas food?

Did you do any festive parkruns?

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).

Learning lessons again

Another week gone by and another week closer to the Chicago Marathon.

I had a solid week of running, totalling up to 32 miles by Sunday. I am beyond chuffed!

The run I did on Tuesday was a real confidence booster of a run. I ran with Kyle and unfortunately Kyle wasn’t feeling that well but I was feeling like a spring ready to be released.

After to’ing and fro’ing and feeling guilty, I decided to run ahead of Kyle so I could embrace this new found energy and get in a solid tempo workout. Minus girlfriend points I know, but he did reassure me it was OK for me to go ahead. Every run is important right now and if I can make some minor gains where I can, I need to take that opportunity.

I found myself getting faster and faster as the run continued and in the end sprinted to a 7 minute mile finish feeling strong and in control. My hamstring was only slightly uncomfortable and generally fine afterwards. Whew! Though of course I won’t be doing this every run, it was nice to be able to turn my legs over a bit faster just to see how things felt and to push myself a bit more. Five solid tempo miles complete!

Thursday was the Wiggle Run for the month and we headed out for a seven mile relatively easy paced run.

It was nice to chat to people, run a different route and basically get out of the office. Actually the route ran some of the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon so brought back good memories for me.

My hamstring did feel a bit more uncomfortable towards the end and concerned me a little, but afterwards felt fine and the next day was absolutely fine again. Clearly Tuesdays session was not entirely risk-free, but thankfully nothing to set me back.

On Saturday Kyle and I headed down to the exceptionally windy Lee-On-Solent parkrun to meet up with our friends Ben and Caroline.

Jeeze it was so gusty! As Lee parkrun is literally straight along the front we really felt the brunt of that wind. Luckily the wind was coming off from the sea rather than directly against us but it was still tough with wind blowing directly into your ear for half the run.

The start was a little stressful too. The run director explained the course, did the thank yous and then straight away counted down to begin the run. No one was in position ready! And as there were over 400 runners it was quite chaotic.

It took us about half a mile to find a position where we weren’t jostling into people or trying to overtake slower runners. Kyle and I ran together and then at the end he sprinted off (payback time eh ;-)).

I managed 24:27 which I’m happy with and at the end I met a lovely blog reader too (who zipped past me super fast in the final sprint!). Turns out she was an old friend I used to know back in the day, so it was nice to see her again.

Then Kyle, Ben, Caroline and I headed to The Penguin Café for brunch.

This is your proper greasy spoon standard British café. We love it here. It’s definitely quantity over quality to some degree but it’s always so friendly, the service is fantastic and the whole café is full of penguin pictures and artwork. Love it!

We all had the Emperor Breakfast, which is basically the biggest breakfast on the menu: three bits of bacon, two sausages, two eggs, beans, mushrooms, hash browns, black pudding, tomatoes, toast and a cup of tea (for under a tenner!). It definitely fills a hole.

The rest of the day was about chilling and doing some chores. We briefly considered going out for another run that afternoon to make up our long run (so for me this would be about 13-14 miles, 9 for Kyle). We could see the forecast for the next day looked even windier and potentially downpouring. The idea of that sort of run really didn’t appeal so doing it on Saturday instead seemed tempting.

But in the end we decided to just do it the next day as we weren’t in the right mindset. Plus I don’t think I’d have felt like it was a proper long run. Like yes the miles would be there and ordinarily on any other marathon lead-up I wouldn’t have minded but with having so few quality long runs due to my injury, I really needed to make sure each one I did manage was of quality.

Unfortunately this meant that during the night I slept terribly due to the howling wind, lashing rain and foreboding run. I woke up at 8.30am and looked out the window at the trees being thrashed around and wished so much I’d have done the run the day before.

I got myself together and took Alfie for a walk so I could wake my body up and also see how bad the weather really was. It was warm outside, slightly wet with spitting rain but generally just super windy. And the wind was coming off the seafront, like the day before, so actually we would only be fully against it for a few miles throughout the run. Not too bad!

We both got ourselves together and headed out. Within the first few miles it became clear that the run wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d feared.

And we saw the pumpkins!

It was a little warm and of course super windy, but actually it was very pleasant. We kept the pace sensible and found ourselves feeling good and enjoying it.

When we got to eight miles, Kyle headed off back home to finish his 12 miles and I carried on. My plan was to follow the same 15 mile route I’d used the previous two weeks but at 10 miles, providing I was feeling good, I could add an extra mile. And right at the end I could add another loop for a further mile if I was still feeling good.

Very windy along the seafront

Happily when I got to mile 10 I was feeling somewhat strong and added the first extra loop. As I got to about 12 miles though I started to flag. The wind was now against me and I could feel my energy sapping.

I know I’m very lucky in my running that I rarely “hit the wall” but I definitely felt like I was. I got to a set of complicated traffic lights (about three different traffic light points to get across a big crossroad) and I stood there grateful for the moment’s rest. I wasn’t out of breath or hurting, I was just tired. I felt a wave of mental and physical exhaustion… Five miles was a long way to go!

But as I set off again I felt a new lease of life, a second wind, and popped some music on and embraced this new energy. I was back on it again!

It became a struggle again on the final mile, but at this point the end was in sight. I was on my way to stopping and sitting down. What a relief!

I finished strong, but exhausted and very thirsty. The humid temperature and the salty spray from the sea had made my mouth very dry. I guzzled down a pint of water as soon as I got in.

Kyle’s run had gone well too and we were both chuffed we’d gotten out and done it despite our initial reservations.

As I’m dog-sitting at the moment for my parents (three dogs plus my Alfie), I ended up having to do a lot of walking throughout the day as I can’t walk them all at once. And I also met my lovely friend, Kim, for a coffee which involved about three miles round walk in total too.

In the end I walked over 45,000 steps and was SHATTERED. I didn’t feel hungry (even by 5pm and having just had porridge to eat all day), I had a terrible headache and just felt so drained.

I should have rested more but I felt guilty about not walking the dogs. My parents usually take them for a big walk down the beach but I just can’t do that on my own. So I kept taking them out for little walks to keep them entertained and happy.

Though my hamstring felt absolutely fine I just felt terrible. 17 miles is a big step-up in the great scheme of my lack of training and the wind definitely didn’t help. Though my mind is like “Pft! 17 miles, I’ve done that loads of times”, I need to remember that actually it’s been a while. I need to be sensible. Lesson very much learnt!

But I’m chuffed I had a solid long run!

How do you recover after a long run?

Do you dread runs sometimes?

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.