Well that escalated quickly…

Life has really taken a dramatic twist hasn’t it?

Since the last time I posted (blissfully happy in a bubble of long running and marathon hopes), well, everything has changed.

For us in the UK things have really ramped up quickly in the last week. From advice of washing hands regularly to now schools closing and instructions to work from home, avoiding social spaces and parkrun cancellations.

It’s undoubtedly a scary and uncertain time but I don’t want this post to be all about that because let’s be honest we all know what’s happening and it’s pretty overwhelming and consuming. I’m actually quite glad to now be working from home because it’s all everyone talks about in the office. So I’m at home with a little set-up in my room adjusting to this new way of life.

Anyway, on to what this blog is about: RUNNING. Of course all the races I’d signed up for have been cancelled or postponed. I had the Eastleigh 10k this weekend, of course Rotterdam, and then I’d optimistically signed up to the Southampton marathon as a back-up, but that too has been postponed. Rightly so. And parkrun being cancelled.

Of course this is all the right thing to do. Not going out to social areas, not mixing unnecessarily, limiting chance of exposure. My dad has a heart condition so I’m worried. But we can only control what we can control and there’s point wasting emotional energy on things outside of that. Obviously easier said than done, but I’m trying.

So no marathon in the near future and a bunch of long runs and weeks’ of trainings that seem worthless now on paper. However, for me I really enjoy the process of marathon training so personally it’s not a waste. It’s just a shame there’s not a big shebang of a race to celebrate those long runs.

That said, I’m almost certain I will run 26.2 miles in April. My plan is to run the distance around where I live. I mean, it’s going to be ridiculously tough – so much harder than if it was a race as it’ll just be me on my tod running along. But part of me is curious as to whether I can actually do this… We’ll see. My plan would probably be to run it over the Easter weekend. I’d properly plan a route, maybe get my family out to support me, do everything I’d normally do. Well, watch this space!

Last weekend Kyle and I ran 18 miles together. We both knew Rotterdam had been cancelled and potentially the miles were “pointless” but we wanted to do it anyway as we’d planned it and had mentally geared up for it. Kyle is not a huge long distance fan and now that Rotterdam isn’t happening he’ll drop his mileage back down. It makes sense.

It’s such a shame for him because he did so well with the long runs – far better than last time when he trained for the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon and got injured halfway. He was very much on for a solid race. But such is life right now. He’ll be able to train up again if he wants to (Rotterdam is technically postponed until later in the year so this is real possibility all being well in the world, of course).

The 18 miler we did around where I live, my usual along the coast style long run which I love so much. We reversed the route and set off Sunday morning. We had a more relaxed start as no parkrun to get to (this was to be a “true” long run in the sense we wouldn’t be stopping or sandwiching anything in the middle). The wind was a bit blustery which was somewhat annoying  but generally the run went really well.

It’s funny though because when you’ve been doing a run route in one direction for so long, when you change it suddenly it makes everything different and you notice all these hills that you previously hadn’t!

However, we maintained a decent pace and then towards the end I stretched it out a tiny bit just to get my legs going. It’s my usual way of running long runs that I like to speed up a bit towards the end if I have the energy. Kyle wasn’t far behind at all though.

When we got back to mine my parents handed me a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts that a lovely friend had dropped off after I’d done a favour for him. What a fantastic way to finish a run, I tell you! We didn’t eat them straight away 😉

Instead we showered and then celebrated with an almighty carvery. Honestly, so satisfying and extra delicious after all those miles!

I had roast gammon with all the trimmings. It was glorious. The doughnuts were had later when we were chilling. Perfection!

Delicious Lotus Biscoff

Anyway, stay safe and healthy everyone!

What’s your favourite doughnut flavour?

Are still long running if you’ve had a race cancellation?

17 mile parkrun sandwich

So marathon training for Rotterdam is still going well.

I mean it could all be for nothing if it gets cancelled though. Races and events are dropping all over the place. Europe doesn’t feel a particularly stable place right now – and who would have thought the problem would be a virus and not Brexit eh.

And not only this but FlyBe went bust which scuppered our plans a little. We were heading out from Southampton Airport which is so easy for us being local. It meant we could go after work on the Friday rather than take that day off. Alas, we’re now flying from Gatwick.

We managed to save some money so that’s something! And we will get our money back apparently (after the legal dust has settled) so it’s not a terrible outcome (for us at least).

Anyway, with all that in mind, we’ve decided we’ll still go to Rotterdam even if the marathon is cancelled. It’ll be a nice trip as we’ve both never been to The Netherlands and though perhaps crazy for me, it might be nice to go on holiday for holiday’s sake rather than a run 😉

That said… amazingly there’s now a Z parkrun nearby too! Well, I say “nearby”, it’d be about an hour’s journey I think but if the marathon isn’t on we’ll definitely do that on the Saturday instead of doing the much closer parkrun to where we’re staying. Either way, a parkrun will happen! This is very exciting. They only just started up in The Netherlands so I am STOKED.

So the training. Kyle and I had a 17 miler in the plan for Saturday. We decided to combine it with parkrun to break it up a bit, at least mentally. While I don’t mind the long runs (in fact, I really do love them most of the time) it was something Kyle wasn’t looking forward to. And 15 miles to 17 miles is a large step.

So to help ease us into it we planned a 10 mile route to Lee-On-Solent parkrun, then we’d do the parkrun, then run four miles back. By chunking it like this it was easier to digest.

We started off running at around 7.30am (ish… we were a tad late) and in our heads it was just “let’s run 10 miles”, which is a far more manageable distance. Unfortunately due to my very “fine-tuned” planning (ahem…) we got to about 8.5 miles and it was almost 8.50am. Right, we needed to pick it up a bit.

We started discussing strategies. If we got close (and happily because we were running along the coast we would eventually be able to see parkrun in the distance) we could make the decision about whether to do parkrun or just run on and find some more miles as we headed back to mine.

Very luckily it started about five minutes late and by the time we arrived they had literally just started. So we ran to the start line, turned around and began the parkrun course (basically back to where we’d come from).

The only snag in the plan was that because Lee-On-Solent parkrun is quite narrow it meant that we had to navigate our way through runners who were running a bit slower than us. This was easier for me as I’m a little person whereas Kyle is a bigger person so the gaps I could meander through, he could not.

Kyle mentioned it was somewhat frustrating (our own fault though of course) but actually it probably helped keep his pace consistent. I increased my pace a bit more as I wanted to get a bit of a tempo on and it worked nicely for us both in what we wanted from the  long run.

It was hardwork and I felt like I was putting in a lot of effort for a pace that wasn’t, when all said and done, *that* fast (relatively speaking). A bit like when you “sprint” the final 0.2 of a marathon when realistically you’re crawling along.

But it was good to get the legs working hard. All good training.

After we finished we scanned our barcodes quickly then immediately carried on with the run. It was so nice to know we just had to run home. We picked up the pace on the final two miles and we felt like we cruised home. 17 miles, done and dusted.

A real confidence boosting run for us both. And really helps bolster Kyle for the coming 18 miles we have planned for this weekend…

To celebrate of course we needed something epic. So we headed to 7Bone Burger in Portsmouth that afternoon (after a proper refuel of porridge for me and scrambled egg on toast for Kyle of course #health). It did not disappoint!

I had a chicken burger with an added halloumi patty (ABSOLUTELY A MUST IF YOU GO THERE), with a side of halloumi fries and a portion of chicken wings. I mean, it was truly magical.

#health

Do you like to celebrate long runs?

Do you like a parkrun sandwich long run?

Have you ever been late to a parkrun? I was once 10 minutes late to Eastleigh which was a bit stressful!

Our trip to Bournemouth – running, food and cats

I feel like I’m so behind and so out of touch with my blog at the moment and it’s really making me sad.

I love my blog. It’s like a diary. I like documenting things, putting photos up and rambling. And if people read it (and thank you if you do :)) it’s a huge bonus.

Work has been taking up my mental capacity to write. It’s not just that it’s busy, but it involves a lot of brain resource that leaves me dwindling at the end of the day. And weekends are packed with everything that doesn’t get done in the week.

And not just work, but life in general. It seems to be moving 1,000mph. It’s good – really good. I’m very happy and content and life is moving in the direction I want, but my blog has unfortunately taken a back seat.

But there’s so much I want to talk about! So I’ll do my best…

A couple of weekends ago Kyle and I went to Bournemouth. Bournemouth is about an hour from us and to be honest we had no real reason to go other than it would be nice to go somewhere and there were a couple of foodie/fun related things we wanted to try.

So we booked a very inexpensive Airbnb for the Friday night and went straight from work. We’ve been so lucky with Airbnb’s in the past. We’ve had one that was strange but not unpleasant but every other one has been absolutely fine, which is obviously why we keep doing it.

This one in Bournemouth though wasn’t great. It was described as a “quiet family home” but on arrival it was clear it was more a “chaotic family home” with children racing around the place and dogs barking loudly. It was a tricky to find out from the host where we were allowed to go, where the bathroom was, did we need a key and trying to explain to them what our movements would be (if we meet the host we like to explain our plans so we’re not just coming and going through their house – especially as we were going to be off early for a run in the morning). She didn’t seem interested at all or like she knew what was even going on.

In the later evening (past 10pm) the children were still running about and playing (they were very young children) and to top it off at 6am we were woken by a loud argument outside our door (lots of “you need to f****** get out”) which was VERY unsettling. To the point that we left ASAP and didn’t even shower after our run. You win some, you lose some!

But anyway. We had a fairly good dinner on Friday night in a place called Mokobo Burger (we still don’t know how to pronounce it).

I had three different types of chicken wings which were really good (though one lot was super spicy) and Kyle had a burger and loaded fries. I have to say that while my wings were good, Kyle’s burger was a bit disappointing (it was slightly burnt) and the “loaded” fries were just insipid fries with a small lump of pulled pork on top… which came out about 10 minutes after our mains.

It was a shame because originally we were going to go to our favourite burger place (Monty’s Burger Lounge) but decided to try somewhere new. Sadly it was loud and hard to talk to each other and just a bit “meh”.

So far, not great for our trip! We woke up early to get in five miles before Bournemouth parkrun as we wanted to get eight miles total for the day. We had grand ideas of running 2.5 miles before and after but in the end it just seemed simpler to get out and do the 5 miles and finish with parkrun.

It was a nice 5 miles, though somewhat unsatisfying because we didn’t really have a route planned so decided to run 2.5 miles towards the sea, and then back again. We could just see the sea a few 100 metres in the distance before heading back.

Obviously I know this already but I really do prefer longer distances. My body just gets into the groove after about three miles and feels nice and in the zone. So by the time we got to parkrun I was ready to go.

Bournemouth parkrun is literally right next to the football ground so getting there felt very much like I had a half marathon or full marathon to run as this was always where the portaloos were for those races in October! But no, just 5k left today.

We lined up in a big huddle and then we were off. It was a bit chaotic to begin with as we were literally just running across a field. It bottlenecked in slightly but was still rather crowded as we got onto the first loop. I found the first mile tough – not because of how I felt running but because of the crowding. It was hard to overtake people and I got wedged in to lots of people. I was scared to knock fellow runners or step on their heels. Eventually though we spaced out and I was able to get past people running slower than myself.

Then I got into my stride. It was like I was suddenly unleashed and I was off. I checked my watch – woah where had that pace come from? And I felt fantastic! Yes it was hard but it was hard in a very manageable way. It felt gooood!

We finished the loop for the second time and then headed off onto another loop for the half (ish?) of the run. I found myself picking runners off and running past. Grimacing but in a good way, I pushed the pace and finished strong.

My time was 22:43, which I’m super pleased with! And eight miles in the bag.

And it was Kyle’s chance to rock his 50th parkrun t-shirt for the first time! (Super impressed how quickly it had arrived).

After parkrun we walked back to the Airbnb and then took our stuff and left sharpish. We then headed to the centre for breakfast at the lovely South Coast Roast. It was very “hipster” and I mean that in the nicest way. Lots of milk options, environmentally friendly and all the avocado options on the menu.

We went for the Bondi breakfast which had avocado toast, tomatoes, poached eggs, chilli jam, pickles (I LOVE pickles!) and then you could add extras. So I added halloumi and Kyle had chorizo. It was delicious.

From there we walked to the nearby Cat Café. Yes, you read that right. It’s a cat shelter but built as a café so you can go in and spend time with the cats (on their terms of course…) and order drinks as well.

We were introduced to the cats and told the rules (no picking them up, no stoking while they’re asleep, being respectful to them etc.) and then ordered some coffees.

Well, I have to say that while the cats were beautiful and the café was friendly and lovely, I happened to meet the most grumpy cat who when I tried to stroke lashed out at my hand and made me bleed slightly. I mean, I am a dog person and I’m not quite as savvy with cats so it was probably my own fault…  but it was a bit of a shock.

A tiny wound to be fair

The other cats were fast asleep so in the end it was a bit of a dud experience. It very much felt like we were there because the cats had allowed us there and we were blessed to be in their presence… As a dog person this is a strange concept to me as dogs tend to just love you and want your company regardless. Cats are definitely more picky and temperamental. They were gorgeous though and well looked after.

Then we headed home! Definitely a weekend of ups and downs – though we enjoyed ourselves regardless.

Are you a cat or a dog person?

Do you need a decent warm up before you get into a run?

Have you ever had a bad experience with a hotel or Airbnb?

Our trip to London and all the food

I’m so behind on my posts. I have so much to talk about as well!

I’ll start first with an incredible weekend I had with Kyle that as just SO good. Kyle and I were super excited about it. It was literally all our favourite things, but sadly without any running.

We planned to go to London for my Christmas present, which Kyle had gotten me. A chicken wings tour! I mean, this was a perfect gift and a perfect excuse for us to spend a night in London and enjoy ourselves.

Originally we’d planned to do the tour on the Friday, stay over and then do parkrun and brunch Saturday. However it turned out that the chicken wings thing was only available Wednesday or Sunday… ehhh. So no parkrun for us sadly as we’d be travelling up Sunday morning to get there for the wings at lunch, then head home Monday after brunch.

It’s funny because after we got there we wondered why we hadn’t brought our running kit so we could do a cheeky run Monday morning. It was a bit of a lost opportunity but I think we were both just too focused on the food.

We did Lee-On-Solent parkrun on Saturday though and ran 1.5 miles there and 1.5 miles back to the car so we could get in a “long run” of just over 6 miles. Obviously 6 miles isn’t that long in comparison to previous runs I’ve done but I’m being super sensible about this comeback and I don’t want to just jump into a 10 miler and bugger everything up.

Anyway, parkrun was good. I saw a few people I knew, which is always nice and had a nice run with Kyle. We took it relatively easy and had a very enjoyable run. We made sure not to stand too close to the back as we have done in the past as it gets crazy busy at Lee and it’s a fairly narrow start.

Sunday we woke up early without an alarm – which is always nice. We got into a bad habit of sleeping very late a few weeks ago which made us feel terrible. I say late, it was about 9am, but this is late for us. We just felt so groggy and like we’d had too much sleep. As lovely as lie-ins are I’d rather naturally wake up earlier and feel refreshed. We relaxed in bed for a while as our train wasn’t until 10 and I decided to go for another short run.

I wanted to be running two days in a row again and adding another 3 mile run to the weekend would help me gently transition into this. The run went really well. No issues and it felt OK (asides from it being around Clanfield which is so fricking hilly!).

It was a fantastic Airbnb!

After the run we got ready and headed to London on the train. It was very tight on timings to get to Shoreditch, check in at our Airbnb (we love an Airbnb) and then meet our tour guide for the wings experience. But we made it bang on time!

It was just us on the tour which was really nice (the tour can have up to 15 people I think). The woman who was our guide (I’m embarrassed to say that while we did get her name I don’t think I’d be able to spell it correctly) was SO lovely. She was friendly, knew so much about the local area and just the right amount of involved. (If you’re interested it’s THIS experience).

She took us to Orange Buffalo to begin with an we got to try two different heat levels. Both flavours were fantastic and it came with a thick blue cheese dip. Honest to God, I could bathe in this stuff. One of my absolute favourite things in the entire world is a buffalo chicken wing with a thick cold blue cheese dip. NOTHING beats that texture and flavour combo for me. I am a simple creature I know.

She showed us around the local area (an area I’d heard about but never been myself), with all the street art, the food market, Banksy artwork… it was fascinating. It was hustling and bustling and busy with electrically (and far cooler) dressed people. It felt very “hip” (and by saying hip I have now fully separated myself from any form of coolness, I do realise this). She had fantastic tid-bits of information and interesting local knowledge.

Cool street art and a tree with lots of trainers hanging from it

The second stop was in the Boxpark in Shoreditch called Coqfighter. It was very exciting for me because I’d heard about these places on social media (follow my Instagram @AnnaTheCake88 for my foodie loving) and now I was getting to actually go there.

The wings were so different from this location because they were of the fried chicken variety so had a crispy Vodka and sesame coating and came with a soy sauce and chilli dip. Damn they were SO good. So different to what I’ve usually had before. The soy sauce dip, dear lord, was good. And the crispiness of the chicken just rocked my world. I was in heaven.

Then we headed, somewhat sadly, to our last location called the Blue Kitchen. We had double fried buffalo wings and Szechuan wings (pictured above). I didn’t think anything could top what we’d had so far but these were FRICKING AMAZING. Double fried? Yes please. In my excitement I sadly didn’t get a picture of the buffalo…but they were fantastic I assure you.

I think I amused our guide a bit because I was clearly VERY into my wings and did a good job of polishing everything off. She was amazed that we ran as much as we did as well – all the marathons and parkruns. It was fun talking to her about it. I felt like we just bamboozled her with our weird lives of eating and running haha.

After the wings tour, we headed to Doughnut Time for some pudding. I mean I was pretty full to be honest but we wanted to get some of these oh so Instagrammable doughnuts. Kyle was VERY excited. We’ve both had them before and had decided as a treat to get a box (and take a couple home for Kyle’s parents – my parents declined as they’re both on Slimming World).

We got over-excited and bought NINE. I mean, Jesus, they’re not exactly cheap either. I think they are a little over-priced and over-hyped for what they are, but it was good fun choosing and enjoying the moment.

We took a big box back with us to the Airbnb and enjoyed a few there. The ones I’d chosen (Sia Later, Ice Ice Bae and Caramacklemore) were delicious. The Sia Later (red velvet) was the best, Ice Ice Bae (with cookie dough and brownie bites) was VERY sweet but tasty and the Caramacklemore (white chocolate) was somewhat disappointing, but possibly because I was quite sugared out by that point. Yes, I was that greedy and ate three. I fully enjoyed them 🙂

Caramacklemore

The next morning, after a lovely little lie-in, we walked to Covent Garden with a little stop in Starbucks for a coffee. We had brunch booked for 12 at the Big Easy (blows my mind that this was the earlier we could book – surely this is now lunch?). We’ve had brunch here before and it’s all you can eat and it’s just fantastic. I mean, if you’re a big meat-eater of course.

We did have a little stop in ANOTHER Doughnut Time, but this time the Doughtnut Time “World”. You can really tell how much they bank on social media for their notoriety.

The shop was set up specifically for taking photos and promoting to Instagram. While it was good fun and quite quirky, it felt a little odd and, well, clinical.

I imagine when they have events it’s a bit better but just Kyle and I in the shop meant it was a bit weird. And the posters around the shop saying that the props were for photos only furthered this. I obviously fully enjoy social media and taking photos, but it was a tad overkill (tho tbf, it had worked for us right?).

Anyway, Kyle bought another of the OG doughnuts because he enjoyed it so much the day before and wanted to take one home. I refrained – I’d eaten three the day before and had one to take home, so I was happy.

Then we got to the Big Easy in Covent Garden and enjoyed even more excess of food. BBQ ribs, smoked sausage, BBQ chicken, pulled pork, chips, cornbread, coleslaw and beans.

It was fantastic and we left very full! The staff are very attentive and brought out more of what we asked and we enjoyed ourselves a lot, but we were now dunzo’ed on food haha.

So a whole lot of eating and a little bit of running!

Do you like all you can eat experiences?

Are you a doughnut fan?

Do you like social media? Do you use it a lot?

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?