Ipswich parkrun – one letter left!

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photos from Facebook)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll recap the race in another post!

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

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

How far would you drive for a parkrun?

Yeovil parkrun – getting my Y

The parkrun Alphabet Challenge has genuinely been something I’ve loved doing. Like I’ve said many times before, ticking things off a list and “collecting” things is something I really enjoy (weird? Maybe. But I know I’m not alone in this). So I had three letters left… Y, I, and Z (X doesn’t currently exist). So it was time to crack on with getting Y.

There aren’t many Y’s about in the UK sadly. As much as I’d love to have gone all the way to the beautiful city of York to do it as everyone suggested, it was just a bit too far for a quick day-trip. I’m trying to not spend stupid money doing this (bearing in mind that I have a small trip to Poland to do soon to get Z…). Living in Southampton made York a slightly unrealistic quick day-trip option. Instead, I settled with going to Yeovil. This was still about two hours away so not exactly a quick trip and the very ‘lovely’ early morning leaving time of 6.30am.

Happily I didn’t have to go solo as Kyle joined me. I had previously warned him about my driving skills and navigational ability so it was no surprise to anyone when I missed a crucial turning and added 10 more miles to the journey making our ETA somewhat dangerously close to the start time. Remember, I never add contingency time. I live in Anna La La Land where everything is jolly and nothing goes wrong.We did actually arrive in OK timing (well, we got to the car park in good timing). There were marshals to direct us in to park which I’d never seen before at a parkrun. But I guess made sense as it was located at Montacute House, which was a National Trust location, and the parking was a bit all over the place.Anywho we parked, went to the loo (absolutely crucial for me and my tiny bladder) and walked to the starting area. It was right in front of the Montacute House and I started taking some photos as it was so pretty. Oneof the marshals gently told us perhaps we’d like to get ready rather than take photos and were we tourists? As we replied we heard “go!”. Blimey!! We were off already! We just hadn’t noticed the time fly by. We raced after the other runners, frantically starting our watches, and cracked on.Yeovil parkrun course is all on grass and the start is a bit of a free-for-all as you leg it off in a big group away from the house. Then it narrows up as you join a rough path, still on grass. There are a lot of sheep about so you do have to be mindful of them and the copious amounts of sheep poo everywhere. It was mostly out of the shade and as the sun was beating down already it proved to be quite a sweaty run.Kyle and I were able to overtake a fair number of people as we caught up with the pack and get ourselves into a comfortable position amongst the other runners. A herd of sheep ran across the path of the runners at one point which was quite amusing. And you had to watch your foot placings quite keenly because it was rough underneath, meaning ankles could turn quite easily. Basically it wasn’t a parkrun to switch off from and enjoy the views, you had to be aware of your surroundings.I felt like the first half dragged on and I felt quite unfit. But by mile two I got a second wind and found myself stretching on and starting to overtake more people as I gained speed. The course isn’t hilly but it’s fairly undulating, with little hills and dips, which gave for good downhill surges. There’s a final significant incline at the end and then it’s round the corner to the finish. I was happy to finish as second female with 22:42. Not too shabby!After quickly freshening up in the toilets (which were lovely by the way) and getting changed, we headed off for some breakfast. A friend at work had recommended the Cow and Apple in Yeovil itself so we headed there.We got a table outside and sat in the blazing sunshine sweating away. The food was good though. A good spot – and lots of people watching opportunities (there are some funny sorts out and about on a Saturday morning aren’t there!).From Yeovil we drove to Dorchester. It seemed silly to not make a day of it driving all that way and people had recommended Dorchester as a good place to mosey about. And it has a dinosaur museum! With my strange love of dinosaurs this seemed perfect. It was quite an amusing experience though. Clearly more geared towards children…though it was a fun way to spend an hour or so. It was quite interactive in places and we both made the mistake of “smelling a t-rex’s breath”. URGH. It was VILE. It was a good giggle tho.We grabbed a quick rocky road snack to share (just OK, not the best I’ve ever had) and then headed off for pit-stop number three, the Sculpture by the Lakes, just outside of the main area of Dorchester in Pallington Lakes. We weren’t really sure what to expect but it had lots of really good reviews and the weather seemed ideal.It was VERY posh. Like you could tell straight away it was a “nice” place. Located in the back-garden (I use this term VERY loosely) of the artist’s house was this incredible set-up of lakes with beautiful sculptures located in different spots around and a posh café (well restaurant really) to sit and enjoy food and drink at. We paid for two tickets (£10 each, not too bad considering you could stay all day and just enjoy the scenery and have a picnic if you fancied) and then wandered around the lake. It was beautiful and the sculptures were amazing. There were birds, words and sentences and fruit… it was very diverse but all impressive. There were a number of people just laying about in the sun or having a picnic but you could tell this was not a place for, as my dad says, the great unwashed! And children and dogs were strictly not allowed.We spent a good amount of time walking around and sitting by the water before deciding that the call for food might be coming as our earlier fry-up wore off. Our next stop was Bournemouth where I knew an amazing burger spot was and had wanted to excuse to try it out for ages. I’d been following Monty’s Lounge on Instagram for ages…oh the food porn! Kyle told the waitress I was a bit of an obsessed customer and she laughed – she also gave us some extra special burger sauce as well so hey it helps to be keen in these scenarios! We both ordered the same… chicken wings to start, a pulled pork topped burger with fries (I went for sweet potato) and a very tasty brownie with ice cream for pudding. A pretty damn tasty meal! I’m both sad and happy that this place is just that bit too far from me…

Then we headed home. I was planning a long run the next day and was already dreading it. I’d have to get up early to beat the heat and after an early morning on Saturday I was a bit miffed to lose another one. But if I laid in then I’d be running 15 miles (my planned run) in the heat at peak times. I walked Alfie when I got in and despaired at how cool it felt that evening. Why couldn’t it be like this tomorrow? As I walked around I actually found myself not feeling too tired… what if I just went out for a few miles tonight and subtracted them from my run the next day to make things easier?

 

Before I could change my mind, I dropped Alfie back off at home, got back into my running gear and headed out. Ok first mile felt…OK. Asides from the fact that I was super full and could feel brownie bouncing around the place, I felt energised and comfortable running.

In my head I planned three miles but as the run went on I just felt better and better. I decided to just go with the flow and see how far I could go. It was now about 9pm and the weather was SO nice. It reminded me of the runs I’ve had during autumn, that blissful time of cool weather running. Yes I did feel a little sick and a little like I might be revisiting my dinner, but otherwise it was a FANTASTIC run. I ran down the seafront and just thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was one of those runs where you could go forever. A run that reminded you why you loved running.As I got back towards my house I added another mile on, embracing my enthusiasm, and totalled 12 miles in the end. I was ecstatic!A solid run at a solid pace feeling amazing, with the bonus of not being sick. Hurrah!

Have you ever done a long run quite soon after a big meal?

Do you enjoy going round museums?

Do you like to do day-trips to visit different places?

 

parkrun and friends

After having a solid eight days off of running to let my running mojo reignite and my calf chill the hell out, I’m back to running. This was good timing as a few guys from work were heading to Lakeside parkrun (actually located next to where we work) and I was glad not to miss out.

It was Trystan’s first time at parkrun so I was really chuffed for him (being the parkrun nut I am). He’d only recently gotten into running so this was a step in the right direction. My friends Ed and Kyle were also coming so there was a nice bunch of us. It was a warm morning and none of us were planning on any crazy PB attempts but we decided to all just run separately to keep the pressure down and let us all just run however we liked.

I’d had some acupuncture and massage from a really good local physio on Wednesday. I’ve mentioned him before (check out his website HERE – I fully recommend him!) and after that my calf was feeling good. I’d tested it out with a gentle 3.5 mile (a little niggly but much better) and then a 10k run with two guys from work, also fairly easy. So I was confident I would be OK. The calf felt on the mend! Hurrah.I had every ambition of taking parkrun easy. My mistake was wedging myself forward in the start line-up because as we got going I found myself getting carried away with the people around me and running 7 min/miles pace. Slow. Down. Anna. Unfortunately the brain didn’t quite compute that and I continued on. My calf felt even less niggly than previous runs… if it had gotten worse I would have slowed down (I mean, in retrospect, you can really say anything can’t you? I hope I would have slowed down). I saw some familiar faces as I ran and we exchanged cheers and hellos. parkrun is always so friendly and of course this is quite a local one so you see lots of the same people about.

From the Facebook page

With Lakeside, there’s a lovely chunk where you’re running past the lake under the shade of the trees. Though as people were running along the sandy track it was lifting dust into the air which was a little disconcerting to breathe in. Though the annoying part about this parkrun is the final out and back bit where you run out into the sunlight again and then under an underpass – so two mini hills – before heading back the way you came to finish on a long straight. It can be a bit wearisome.

From the Facebook page

Anyway, I managed to gain on the first female and this only made me keep my speedy pace rather than be more sensible and slow down. But I still felt OK.

Kyle wasn’t too far behind me – apparently trying to catch me (spoiler he was just 14 seconds behind – though to be fair to him, he’d started behind loads of people. His watch time was very similar to my watch time). Ed wasn’t far behind either and Trystan smashed it with just over 27 minutes. My time was 21:30 which I was both happy about and annoyed at myself for. I should have taken it easy. But the calf felt OK at the end…fingers crossed.

Trystan’s sprint finish was honestly amazing. I mean look at that determination!
We all had a great run. Trystan was pleased with his first parkrun and seemed keen to do another (yessssss parkrun convertee).It’s just so nice to have a beautiful morning and a great run with lovely people. Can’t beat that on a Saturday morning! I also got to catch up with the ever friendly Paul (check out his parkrun-full blog HERE). He’s a lovely guy and gave me some good parkrun tourism ideas. The guys and I then headed for a nice coffee in the Starbucks nearby. Good start to the weekend!

As for once I had no major plans, I enjoyed a nice dog walk with Alfie in the sunshine and watched the Germany vs. Switzerland match in the evening with my dad. I’ve actually been really loving the World Cup. I don’t usually watch football and know next to nothing about it but I do enjoy the World Cup time. I like how people get involved, talking about it and getting excited. Obviously I’d love England to do well but to be honest it’s just fun to be involved. Luckily at work we have a television which is showing all the matches so we can keep up with the games through the day.

On Sunday I played it safe with going to a Les Mills RPM spin class (currently on 78) which properly kicked my butt. Who knew you could sweat from your elbow creases and shins? Obviously I’d much rather be running but these Les Mills spin classes are actually really good. The “virtual” instructors on the screen are so full of enthusiastic beans and the workouts are so tough you do feel properly worked out. My calf felt OK in the morning but I wanted to give it another day. I’m going to the Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp in a week so I wanted to be fighting fit for that. Fingers crossed.

After the gym I had a nice (albeit HOT) walk round Queen Elizabeth Country Park.It was very sunny and the trails around QECP are quite hilly. But it was a good walk nonetheless. A refuel was definitely needed afterwards. That came in the shape of a lamb and feta burger (done on the BBQ) with some very crispy chips at the Hampshire Hog nearby.

Followed by a VERY tasty brownie.The brownie was SO good. It was so gooey, warm and fudgie. It rocked my world.

So a good weekend with a bit of running, a lot of sunshine, good food and fun times.

What did you get up to this weekend?

Have you introduced someone new to parkrun?

Have you tried any of the Les Mills classes before?

Jersey parkrun

I’m so chuffed I can finally say I’ve done the Jersey parkrun! Since I found out the parkrun Alphabet Challenge was a ‘thing’ I’ve been trying to do different parkruns hitting all the letters (apart from X – there isn’t one yet). It’s silly but I find it really good fun.

There are so many parkruns all over the UK (and the world) so it gets you to different places, meeting new people and just having a laugh really. Over this year I’ve managed to tick off quite a few letters. I’m strangely very proud of myself.Anyway this weekend saw my friend Mike and I getting a flight from Southampton to Jersey so I could tick off ‘J’. Mike loves parkrun too but isn’t quite as mad as me with the Alphabet Challenge – though he’s now becoming more persuaded!

I took a half day Friday so we could fly Friday afternoon. The flight was super easy and fast. We also both only packed hand luggage which made things even cheaper and easier. The plane was tiny and barely half full. We quickly arrived in Jersey and found a huge T-rex which was amusing!It even moved and roared! I love dinosaurs (weird I know) so this made my day straight away. We got out of the tiny airport and walked straight onto the number 15 bus. The buses in jersey are fantastic. It’s £2 for wherever you’re going. Handily one was going literally just then to St. Helier where we were staying. Twenty minutes later we arrived at Liberation Station, the main bus station. Super easy even for me! To be fair, neither Mike or I are the most savvy of people so it was highly likely something was going to go wrong on our little holiday… fingers crossed eh.We got two rooms at the Avoca Guest House, which was about a ten minute walk from the station.It was tiny and old school British quaint but it did the job and the owners were lovely and friendly. It was also cheap! It included breakfast but as we would be parkrunning Saturday and then half marathoning Sunday we wouldn’t be partaking.Bless Mike, he offered to take the smaller of the two rooms where the bathroom was shared with one of the other rooms (how weird) and I got the bigger room with an en suite. I was very grateful. Especially as I do always need a wee during the night.

We ditched our bags and then headed for a walk to see the local area and to find some dinner. Unfortunately it seemed like the rest of Jersey also had this idea and most places were rammed. We tried a great looking little Mexican, La Hacienda, but it was fully booked. St. Helier is a small seaside town – very British but also felt a little bit French, which would make sense considering it’s proximity to the country. And the weather was beautiful. Sunny and warm!

Eventually we found a place called the Canteen and Bar which looked reasonable enough. It wouldn’t have been our first choice but by this point we were super hungry and tired. We shared some falafels and chicken “cakes” and I had chilli beef and cheese on nachos (not my usual but after seeing someone with nachos in the Mexican I was now craving them) and it was very tasty.For pudding we decided to drop into a crêperie that we’d spotted on our meanderings. Mike had salted caramel and I had Belgium milk and white chocolate with honeycomb toffee crunch ice cream. Absolutely heavenly! Every bite was like an explosion of ‘to die for’ taste. I’m not usually a pancake or crêpe fan but this was just divine.Then we parted to our little rooms ready for parkrun in the morning. Through the night I was intermittently woken up by thunder and lightning. It went on pretty much the entire night and we woke up to it still carrying on and heavily raining. Uh oh. I’d only packed summer clothes and no coat! This had not been forecasted at all.Luckily I’d brought my umbrella and Mike was able to borrow one of the guest house’s umbrellas and we walked to the bus stop. We’d have gotten absolutely soaked had we not had umbrellas but it was still rather grim. I’d packed two options for that morning’s run (a strappy tank and my parkrun apricot t-shirt) and in the end wore both as I was cold. The bus journey took about 20 minutes and we picked up more parkrunners as we went. One of them told us that it might be cancelled due to the thunder and lightning and they were making a decision whether to go through with it or not. WHAT!!! Noooooo! Imagine coming all this way and not being able to get my ‘J’! Thankfully when we arrived I saw a Tweet that said it was to go ahead as long as the thunderstorm held off. Thank goodness.The parkrun was located next to the Les Quennevais sports centre. [Side note: check out Paul Jeffrey’s blog for some more good info on this parkrun]. We had a quick mosey about before heading back into the shelter of the sports centre. I had a quick wee and then eventually headed out for a mile warm-up. Absolutely necessary as I was quite chilly. The cycle track near the sports centre was exactly a mile which was perfect and gave us a good idea of what a section of the course would be like.We met lots of other lovely parkrunners as we waited about. There were a lot of tourists like us who had pretty much just come to do the parkrun (for the Alphabet Challenge like us) and some also doing the half the next day. There was one couple that had only flown in that morning and would be flying back out that afternoon. I mean that is mental! More mental that us…One woman, Marie, just had Jersey left to do for the challenge – which was super exciting. She also gave me lots of solid information about how to get ‘Z’ (Zary in Poland) and some tips on how to travel there and where to stay. Super helpful. She had a t-shirt made with all the letters she’d done. Very dedicated. Annoyingly I’d made the mistake of not bringing my cow cowl… everyone was wearing theirs!

The first timer’s brief was hilarious because it was pretty much 80% of the field who moved over to hear the briefing. The marshal had to grab the megaphone so everyone could hear. And then we lined up ready to go. Though I’d checked the results for last week and seen over 300 people had done it, this week there was definitely less than 200. The run director did an introduction and then said “three, two, parkrun!” and apparently we were off! It was mental. I started running and realised there weren’t too many females ahead of me and decided to be stupid and throw caution to the wind and try and get first female. Stupid because of the the half the next day but ehhh.

I’d had a fairly rubbish week of running, with every run feeling hard and lethargic, so I was pretty sure the half wouldn’t go to plan, which is why I decided to capitalise on feeling good then and getting something out of the parkrun in terms of placing.

The first mile ran round the sports centre area on tarmac and had a slight, brief incline but otherwise was flat. Then we headed off along the railway line path which was compacted sand/trail and easy to run on. It was also nice and flat but you did have to do some puddle dodging. I managed to overtake the females in front of me and was now first girl. I felt the run was comfortably tough and the gentle rain helped cool me down – wearing two tops had not been the right decision!

After the first turnaround I realised the wind had been behind us and now it was against us… ehhh. Eventually though we ran down a small slope and got to another turnaround. It made me think, what’s better running downhill against the wind or running uphill with the wind behind? It didn’t matter hugely as we were soon heading out from this path and back to the tarmac where the finish was on the grass. I was surprised to get my token and see I’d gotten 7th place! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten such a high placing before. My time was 20:55. Happy days!But yeah, probably not the wisest decision. And my calf, which had been feeling super tight all week, was niggling a little. Of course. I signed the guest book and chatted to the others while I waited for Mike who wasn’t too far behind me (24:09). He too was supposed to be taking it easy but had run a bit harder than planned.We then headed upstairs of the sports centre to have a hot drink with a few of the other tourists. We enjoyed a lovely cup of tea with them, swapping running and parkrun stories. It’s so nice to meet people as crazy as yourself 😉 One of them, Richard, had got a hire car and offered to drop us back at our guest house which was very nice of him.

At this point Mike and I were ready to eat our own arms as we hadn’t had breakfast yet. It was about 1pm by the time we’d showered and found ourselves a cafe to eat in! It was a lovely place called Nude Food Cafe, which was kind of a health food cafe I guess. Lots of Buddha bowls, raw desserts and smoothies. We went for a rather healthified fry-up… poached eggs, pancetta, spinach, mushrooms, sweet potato and sourdough toast. It was delicious but I hoovered it up very quickly.Afterwards we shared a raw caramel shortbread. It was made out of coconut sugar, almost butter and things like that. It wasn’t overly sweet but it was nice.Thankfully it had stopped raining and was starting to brighten up. From the cafe we decided to randomly head north on the bus to go to do a bit of exploring. To be honest, our decision was down to what sounded good on the map and what bus was available within the next twenty minutes. So we headed to Greve de Lecq. It was to be an adventure!It was definitely a good choice though. The sun was out and we were at a beautiful bay.The beach had barely a handful of people on it and yet the sun was beating down. It was so beautiful. We obviously had to dip our feet into the sea as well. Stupidly I did manage to put my hoodie in the only puddle of water on the rocks…what an idiot. But as the sun was out I thankfully didn’t need it anymore.From the beach we then did a two mile hike along a clifftop path. It was a very windy and narrow path and at times very steep – not exactly ideal the day before a half but it was so beautiful and peaceful we didn’t care.This was such a random little excursion. We were so proud of ourselves to have found such a gem of a location and something fun to do that afternoon. I mean we were really just there for parkrun and the race, so everything extra was a bonus. And this was a definite bonus!

Eventually we caught the bus back and headed straight to the Mexican from the previous night, determined to get ourselves seated. We literally rocked up as soon as it opened. Amazingly they had one tiny table available (apparently the restaurant is always booked up for two week’s in advance!).

I’m so glad we got this table because honestly this is one of the best tasting meals I’ve had in ages. Like literally every mouthful was an explosion of taste. It was incredible. I had chicken wings to start (I know, I know, always the same) and then ‘deconstructed’ lamb tacos for main. GOD it was good.Mike had a burger with slow cooked pork on it. Honestly the food was incredible. I never wanted it to end! I had churros for pudding which were delicious as well but really the tacos were the main event. Maybe not ideal food for the next day’s half but it was worth it!

I’ll save the half for another post…

Have you ever been to Jersey before?

What is your Mexican dish of choice? Normally I love fajitas.

What’s the furthest you’ve ever travelled for a race or run?

The Romsey Beer Race 2018

The Romsey 5 Mile Beer Race is probably one of my favourite races of the year. I’ve done it three times before and it’s hands down always a good day.

It’s helped I’ve done well each time I’ve run it – and it hugely helps that at the end you get a slice (or three) of cake. Each time I’ve somehow managed to get a podium place each time. Actually this isn’t that much of a mystery as the three times I’ve previously run it there was another league race happening on the same day (the D Day 10k) and this attracts a lot of the local club runners, many of whom are super speedy and would almost certainly have beaten me had they been running at the Beer Race.

But anyway, after a couple of years not running, this year I’d entered and the league race was on a different day. My friend Sarah, who is also a second claim Southampton runner and runs at the track with me, was doing it and she’s super fast and won it last year. I knew straight away I wouldn’t be able to beat her (I’m not sandbagging here, she is literally minutes fast than me over all distances). But that was OK. I just wanted to give it a good crack and see where I was at fitness-wise and time-wise. I hate 10ks, but a quaint five mile race with cake at the end is far more my thing.

Happily I didn’t have to get up early for the race either. I got up at 8am, and herded my parents, like cats, to the car to leave for 8.40am…only ten minutes later than planned. My dad, who was driving, apparently knew how to get there, having driven there three times before. Hmmm. Despite this I found myself immensely stressed when he started getting confused and lost. He won’t admit he was lost, but we were lost. It’s times like this when observe how my parents do things and it gives me a great understanding of how I end up in a pickle in so many areas of my life. We are not an organised bunch. We have no contingencies. We do not think before we leap ahead. We’re fairly happy-go-lucky people. And this has been my downfall many times in life. It’s a fun but chaotic way to live, I can tell you. [Side note:  I spotted that Romsey was twinned with the German town of Battenberg…ironic really considering this race is all about the cake to me.]

Thankfully we were only ten minutes later than planned and actually I had plenty of time to pick up my bib and queue for a wee. I spotted a number of Hedgies and did a nice one(ish) mile warm up with my Hedgie friend, Jim. I have to say, he did crack the pace a bit on the warm-up though. I was surprised to find us running 7.30 pace! This is neither of our easy paces! I had a second wee as the portable loo toilet queues were fast moving, it being a small race, and the run director even came over to say he wouldn’t start without us. Very nice of him.

 

It was hot though. No cloud in the sky, sun beaming down, sticky hot. After my warm-up I was sweating already and a little thirsty. I looked enviously at other people’s water bottles but convinced myself I’d be alright. I was also heavily suffering from hay fever. I’d taken tablets, had eye drops and my nose thing but I was still sneezing and struggling. Not a great omen!

My parents wandered off to where they were going to stand (my dad a pro, having supported three times before, had a few different positions he’d be moving around to during the race. My mum, after seeing me once, would then wander off to a café. The difference between my parent’s support levels is stark I tell you). I headed to the start.

Since the last time I ran this race it’s upgraded significantly. Now we had a proper blow-up start arch thing. The race was also chip-timed. Things were very fancy. I found myself lining up fairly near the front. This concerned me greatly and I attempted to inch back a bit. I should not be near these people! I saw my friend Sarah and decided to put myself a couple of line behind her.

The race runs around the lovely quintessentially British village of Braishfield. It’s undulating, but there are some nice downhills to help compensate. You start with a lap around the cricket field, then onto the country roads. It’s a lovely scenic route, but it is not flat. As we got going I tried desperately not to get carried away trying to keep up with people I most certainly should not.

Having refreshed my memory that morning of the course elevation and my previous paces from the last time I ran it, I knew the first mile would be the steepest and where my pace (if all went to plan) would be the most slow. I was prepared, but it was still tough going. I knew my pace for the first mile last time was 7 minutes. I kept pushing up the hill and my watch beeped 6:50 and I was off on a lovely downhill. Amazing. I was on track to doing better than last time.

It was hot but surprisingly I felt OK. I knew Sarah was far ahead and I could see another girl just ahead. I was pretty sure she was second. My pace was good. The second mile is very deceptive though because it’s basically all downhill, so you should feel pretty good.

Then the next hill hit and it was a fairly sharp one, though thankfully not as long. At this point I’d managed to catch up to the second female and as I overtook her she said “I thought you’d get me as some point, Anna”. She was actually a girl from my club but as she wasn’t wearing a Hedgie vest I hadn’t recognised her. For the rest of the race I imagined she was right behind me. Whether this is accurate or not, it was a good motivator to keep me going.I saw my dad as I came back round past the finish area (not time to finish yet though) and lots of people cheered me on which was nice. I smiled but inside I was starting to fade. I told my dad, as I ran past, I wasn’t having a good race. I like to keep him updated so he knows not to expect anything magical at the end. I had some water (paper cups, excellent) and then was told by a marshal there was a sprinkler round the corner if I wanted to run through it. I replied, “hell yes!”. It was blissful.

I was now hot, tired and struggling. The way the course goes, looping onto one section twice, means that you get to see the 4 mile marker when you’re around 3ish miles in. I remember this being demoralising the other times I’ve run it and it was equally so this time. To think I’ll eventually be back here and then I’ll have a mile to go shouldn’t be as disheartening as it was to me.The marshals, as always, were super supportive and cheered us on. I was told I was second female and I started passing people on their first lap of that loop as I came back round to the four mile marker. I tried to cheer people on as I passed but it got harder and harder as I began struggling more and more. I found I was getting a stitch on and off and my breathing was becoming harder. My chest felt like it was restricted and my sports bra felt far too tight weirdly.A lovely Lordshill runner, Ben, started running next me and he helped push me along. I told him I wasn’t aiming to speed up or a sprint finish, I was now just aiming to maintain my second place position. I was on the pain train and I was not happy. I was so hot and my breathing so laboured. As we came back round to the finish area I couldn’t even raise a smile to anyone cheering me on. I hate ignoring people but I honestly couldn’t.I was just desperate to finish and desperate to breathe properly again. I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything like that before. I was literally gasping and grunting to breathe. It wasn’t like I was running super duper fast, I just couldn’t seem to get oxygen inside my lunges quick enough.The final stretch is a lap round (another) cricket pitch. At this point I honestly thought I was going to have to walk. I had a sneaky look back to see if the third female was about but she wasn’t but decided to save face I couldn’t walk the final stretch.

I kept going. I saw my mum and dad and they cheered me on and then FINALLY I finished. My mum said later she’d never seen me so laboured during a race and was genuinely worried.

I literally had to sit down straight away after I finished. I was not in a good way immediately after the race. A lovely lady rushed over and made sure I was OK and handed me some water. I just needed to sit and breathe in the shade for a few minutes.

Blimey that was tough. I checked my watch… 33:47.

Great, four seconds off my PB. But, on the plus side, second female. Another podium finish for the Beer Race! A happy streak to maintain. And then, of course, I took my cake and beer tokens straight to the cake and beer tents and got myself a happy reward.The memory of the hard race quickly disappeared as I surveyed the selection. I imagine this is what child birth is like… Again, it was clear that things had upgraded with proper branded plastic glasses.I gave my beer to my dad (he deserved it with his stellar support as always) and then perused the cake selection. I had a MINT millionaire shortbread which was delicious. The beer was provided by the cool guys at a local brewery called Flack Manor.

I also managed to find another cake token on the floor! Can you even believe that?? Only me eh! Ha! I got myself a beetroot brownie (gluten free apparently), which was very tasty. I also went back and donated some money to get a cookie as well… in for a penny, eh!

We also cheered the lovely Rebecca in, who was running this for the first time and the furthest she’s ever run! She smashed it. I’m so proud of her. She really is a legend.I then got to collect my second place prize. I’m very pleased to add another tankers to the collection. I’ve given them to my dad so he now has four – a lovely even number!

It was a lovely day. Hard and hot but always a good atmosphere and a lovely set up. I even got a free sports massage at the end. Happy days! Definitely be doing this race again next year 🙂

Are there races you like to do every year?

Do you suffer from hay fever?

Do you like a race without a medal but something quirky like this?