London trip and Burgess parkrun

This weekend was a lovely long one.

Kyle and I left work on Friday after lunch and walked to the train station to head to London. We had an AirBnb booked so after arriving at Waterloo Station we headed there. Not to state the obvious but it was a pretty hot one! Walking and using the tube was hardwork.

After settling into our accommodation we headed to London Bridge to go up The Shard.

Neither of us had done this before so it was exciting to go up. Though I have to say, the number of queues before you get up there is a little ridiculous: there’s a queue to get inside, then a queue to get your ticket, then a queue to have your items checked, then a queue to have a photo taken (which is mandatory and later you have to queue to view and then pay for if you actually want it), then a queue to get into the elevator before FINALLY arriving on the viewing floor. Jeeze. But once you’re up there it’s pretty spectacular. We had a lovely clear day so got a great view.

We avoided the expensive ice cream (£3 per scoop!) and cocktails at the bar (£13.50!) – definitely not in Portsmouth anymore eh. And then we headed back to the AirBnb to get ready for dinner.

We were going to the Chelsea branch of the Marco Pierre White steakhouse. We glammed up and got an Uber there (who was super friendly and even recommended us the same restaurant we had booked for brunch to the next day – great minds!).

The restaurant was super posh – definitely not something we’re used to 😉

We both had Whiskey Mac cocktails while we perused the menu. I drank mine trying to convince myself I do in fact like whiskey (I don’t, unless large amounts of the ice has melted into it). For starters we had the chicken parfait, then I had the duck leg salad and Kyle had steak, and for pudding we both had sticky toffee pudding.

It was very tasty, but quite small portions. I imagine for “normal” people this would be fine but I’m a greedy large appetited person.

We had grand ambitions of going to a pub and having a few more drinks, but reality set in and we realised buying a few snacks from a corner shop and going back to the AirBnb to watch some Good Place was actually better. We’re simple souls.

The next morning we walked to Burgess parkrun (unsurprisingly in Burgess Park). It was so hot. It was a two mile walk so we were nice and toasty when we got there.

While we were milling around I heard a man talking to two others about his parkrun Alphabet Challenge progress. He mentioned he was going to York very soon and then in a couple of week he was off somewhere in Poland for the Z,

Being the nosy person I am, I interjected and asked which parkrun in Poland. I asked because recently my Z for Zary had been removed from counting as a Z in the challenge. I only found this out fairly recently when I checked on my Bingo Challenge progress. Yep, no more Zary in the Z list. After asking around I found out it’s because the Z in Zary is actually not technically a Z in the Polish/Russian language (it has a special dot above it, meaning it means something else).

I mean, of course I was a bit frustrated when I found this out – I went all that way! But actually I really only have myself to blame for this mistake being the non-Polish speaking ignorant English girl… I don’t regret going to Zary of course as I loved going and it was a great adventure for Kyle and I. It also just means I need to go back to Poland to go to the actual real Z parkrun there (without the little dot above it), Zielona Góra. Watch this space…

But anyway, the man couldn’t remember which one he was going to but said his friends had been thorough in their organising. Well, good to luck him!

Burgess parkrun was a beautiful course which ran through the park, next to the large pond (small lake?) and back round again.

It was lovely and flat, asides from a couple of very brief inclines. And the marshals were lovely and enthuasiastic cheering us along.

My hamstring niggled a little but nothing major. I kept my pace controlled. I find it very hard though during parkrun because as you get to the end people are more enthusiastic in their cheering (“come on, sprint finish!”) and as tempting as that is, it’s not ideal when you’re trying to be sensible.

And it’s hard when people suddenly surge past you… Of course I did speed up a bit, but I tried so hard not to get too carried away in the moment. My time was 24:26.

At the end they had bananas and free gels to try (I declined both, far too hot). Then we headed quickly back to the AirBnb to get showered and head to our brunch in Covent Garden, The Big Easy.

Now BBQ food at 11am might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea but for me this was the absolute dream. It was called the Boozy Brunch and the one we selected (The Big Pig Gig) was an all you can eat BBQ food and unlimited drink. We’re not huge drinkers (and it was 11am…) so we opted for Diet Cokes (unlike the table behind us who were at least three pints throughout the meal haha).

I felt a bit bad because on our second Diet Coke I said to the waitress quite firmly (or so Kyle tells me…) not to bring straws with our fresh glasses. The waitress looked a bit affronted told me actually they were eco-friendly straws… Whoops that’s me told!

Anyway the food itself was so good. We had pulled pork, chicken legs, pork ribs, cornbread, coleslaw, BBQ beans and chips.

Once we got through our first ’round’ the waitress was there straight away asking what bits we’d like again, or just a bit of everything again? Well… just a bit of everything please!

Kyle was a big fan of the cornbread, I loved the ribs and neither of us touched the chips (why waste valuable stomach space!). But everything was delicious. On finishing most of the second round the waitress came back. We were both fairly full but being greedy I asked for a couple more ribs. You know, just because.

THEN I was stuffed. Ooooooof!

I had previously had ideas of going to Doughnut Time afterwards but noooo way would this be happening now. Also, the thought of giant sickly doughnuts really was not appealing in the heat.

We then rolled walked back to Waterloo and headed back home. Kyle played on his iPad while I read my newly acquired book, Ready Player One.

A trip well spent!

How was your weekend?

Do you like alcohol with a brunch?

Have you been up The Shard?

What Should You Get For Your Next Piercing?

Bit of a different collaborative post today! I only have my belly button pierced but I have been tempted by a crazy ear piercing – like top of the ear or something like that.

Piercings are an incredibly versatile way to change your look depending on your mood. Unlike tattoos, piercings can be removed easily and can heal with no trace expensive removal treatment. If you’re thinking of adding a shiny peice of body modifcation, here is a quickfire guide to help you decide on your next piercing.

Image Source- CC0 Licence 

Ears

Lots of people get their ears pierced when they’re very young. They are easy to manage and maintain and don’t take a lot of after-care. However, there are plenty of other piercings that can be done on the ears, which can change your look subtly. Piercings like tragus and gold helix piercings can give you a subtle edge to your look. Cost-wise these can vary from about 5 pounds to £25 after-care can be as simple as a saline solution swab, and slight rotation. Lobe earrings can be removed and changed after six weeks, but cartilage piercings take a little longer to heal. 

Nose

Within some cultures, a nose piercing is a right of passage into womanhood. Whether you choose a subtle gem stud or a more noticeable ring, nose piercings really do suit most people. A trustworthy Piercer would charge between £25 and £45 with free after-care. Most nostril piercings are initially fixed with a hooked stud which needs to be left for at least eight weeks before changing the jewellery. Of course, nasal embellishments don’t have to stop at the nostril. A septum piercing is edgy and can easily be hidden away when you don’t want it on display. This type of piercing would cost around £50, including after-care.

Body piercing

Bellybutton and nipple piercings are a more intimate type of body modification which may not be seen by everybody on a day-to-day basis. Bellybutton piercings were particularly popular in the late 1990s and early to thousands when low rise jeans and crop tops were at the height of fashion. However, with lots of people opting for belly covering high-rise jeans, the popularity of the belly peircing has decreased.

Others

Of course, we cannot explore types of piercing without looking at micro dermal piercings. Micro dermal piercings are placed surgically to the surface of the skin. They can be done anywhere, to the face to the shoulders to the small of your back. However, due to them being on the surface of the skin, they are not permanent and can leave scars. Another type of temporary piercing is the corset piercing— Where two lines of rings Create the look of a Corset Going down the body. Mainly used for alternative photo shoots, the rings are tied together with a thin ribbon. Both of these piercings are incredibly delicate and require care to prevent pain if they get caught on clothing!

As with any piercing, it is most important to make sure that you go to a licenced qualified piercing practitioner, as doing this piercing in the wrong way can lead to infections- which not only hurt but can cause lasting damage to the skin.

Have you got any piercings?

My travels up North

I mean I guess it’s probably more accurate to say to the midlands, but for me anywhere north of Bristol feels “Up North” as I live so south 😉

But accurate geography aside, Kyle and I drove up to Stoke-On-Trent on Friday to stay with my grandad ahead of the Manchester Marathon on the Sunday.

Before that though we had a nice walk down to Lee-On-Solent to have some filling breakfast to fuel us for the 3.5 hour car journey. I like to have a bit of a walk or some sort of movement before a long journey as otherwise your body just feels so meh. So we walked about 45 minutes to the Penguin Cafe in Lee for some brunch.

We went for the rather greedy Emperor Breakfast, which was pretty much everything I love about a fry-up. GIANT.

I swapped my hasbrowns for more black pudding

Kyle even got extra toast. When we get breakfast we mean business. The Penguin Cafe is a lovely place – though it is very much your cheap and cheerful greasy spoon. Everything tasted delicious – so I’ll let them off for their bean contamination 😉

After a lonnnnng drive to Stoke we got to spend a nice evening with my grandad and enjoy a home cooked meal of steak, vegetables and potatoes. It’s always lovely to see him and hear about his adventures in Scotland in the Cairngorms Reindeer Centre where he volunteers twice a year as their handyman and general all-round fixer-upper (“Handy Paul” as they call him). At nearly 80 I’m very proud of him.

Beautiful spring weather

The next morning Kyle and I ran the 1.5(ish) miles to Hanley park for the Hanley parkrun.

Happily it was a lovely downhill to get our legs moving. Hanley park itself was a beautiful park with a lovely pond.

Now I remember running Hanley parkrun a few years ago when I stayed at my grandad’s with my dad before the Liverpool Marathon. However I DO NOT remember it being that hilly (actually after going back to the old post I have clearly stated it was “challenging”. Obviously I wiped it from my memory…).

I told Kyle I thought it was flat but actually it really wasn’t. It’s number 406 on the elevation line-up of all the UK parkruns. My home parkrun Netley with it’s three inclines is 212!

We lined up, all happy and innocent of what was ahead, and got ready to start. Kyle and I agreed if one of us felt good to run ahead and as we got going I decided I felt like I bit of a push.

As we turned the corner we hit the first hill. OK I sort of remembered this now… but it was only one hill. Then we had a lovely stretch of downhill, where I lost Kyle (he’s a very cautious downhill runner whereas I’m pretty much a free-faller). And then we looped back round to the same hill. Hmmm.

The course, in the end, included this hill another time AND a nastier longer hill twice. So actually it wasn’t flat at all and was actually very undulating. At 1.5 miles I felt that draining feeling of tiredness where I wasn’t sure I could maintain my speed anymore. But the downhills helped me catch my breath and give me back some energy.

I managed to overtake a few females on the final mile and powered to the finish as second female. I finished in 21:42 and Kyle, not too far behind, finished 22:21.

The first female was already done and I overheard her talking to someone and saying she was from Portsmouth. I jumped over to say so was I. Turns out her local is Southsea and she was visiting family. What a small world!

Then we made our way slowly back to my grandad’s. Annoyingly having to climb up the giant hill we sailed breezily down before. Ooof it was a grind!

We got washed up, had breakfast then headed to Liverpool to see my lovely friend Charlotte, her husband and her little boy, Arthur. She used to live in Brighton (a far more accessible visiting distance) but now she’s so far away it seemed silly not to make the most of being nearby and dropping in.

As I knew I wanted a larger dinner I decided to be sensible and have a lighter lunch (yes, this is still Anna… mental I know). I went for a vegan salad but added chicken (I know, I know). It had falafels and chickpeas and was very tasty but…well, very light.

It was lovely seeing Charlotte but then we had to head off to our next destination – Manchester! Kyle and I were staying in an AirBnb about three miles from the race start and about a ten minute drive from the city centre, which was perfect.

We met up with my other friend, John from many MarathonTalk adventures, and found a perfect, albeit hidden away, pizza restaurant to carb load adequately before the race called Dogs ‘n’ Dough. John was going to be running the marathon too (Kyle wasn’t, he’d be supporting).

The pizza place was very cool and quirky, and helpfully very quiet! I went for BBQ chicken pieces to start. And a cheeky Bud Light.

And then followed it up with a giant 12 inch deep pan pulled pork pizza (The Pig Lebowski). Normally I’m more of a crispy thin fan but this was very tasty. And very filling.

I was definitely going to be well fueled for the next day! I was pretty much sent into a carb coma.

Centre of Manchester

It was nice to catch up with John, although we both admitted that it didn’t really feel like we’d be running a marathon the next day. He was going to be taking it a bit easier (he’s a 3:12 marathoner usually but is training for a much longer event). I wasn’t sure of my plans yet (am I ever??). I was pretty much going to see how it felt on the day. But I kind of wanted to give it a bit of a blast as it seemed like the weather was going to be cool and the course was flat. So an ideal opportunity.

The classic flat lay

John headed back to his hotel and Kyle and I headed back to our AirBnb. The couple who lived there (we were in a room, rather than an entire flat) were lovely and friendly. One of them had run the marathon before so I got to ask her a bit about it. It was quite amusing when they were advising me to have a good carbohydrate rich breakfast and get a good night sleep and giving me tips on running a marathon in general… they then asked if it was my first. I told them it was my 19th and they looked stunned. They then said “oh well I guess you know what you’re doing then!” hehe.

Have you ever been to Manchester before?

Do you prefer thick crusted or thin base pizzas?

What’s the hilliest parkrun you’ve done?

What I’m loving lately – December

I’m not stressed that I still have so many presents to buy for Christmas. I’m not stressed. I’m not stressed. Panic is not ensuing…

Anyway while that inner monologue continues, here are some things I’m loving lately and wanted to share.

Date nights: Kyle and I always make it a priority to have at least one date night a week and this usually involves the cinema (though I’m sure everyone has worked this out already, though I’ve not explicitly said it on the blog, Kyle is my boyfriend!).

We both love going to the cinema; the whole experience is just a fun one, whether the film is really good or… not (*cough* I’m looking at you, Robin Hood). We generally see one film a week. Last week we saw Ralph Breaks the Internet which was a good laugh (I loved the Disney princess bit), and a few more standouts were First Man and Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s just nice to do something mid-week and as we both work at the same place it’s an easy thing to go straight there. We buy a Subway from work (which after 3pm goes down in price), and a fizzy drink from the cinema (we take our reusable straws because we are super cool eco warriors) and enjoy a fairly inexpensive but fun evening.Not only did we go to the cinema last week but we also went out for dinner and then saw Jurassic Park in Concert. Basically this is a showing of Jurassic Park on the big screen with a live orchestra on the stage below the screen playing the soundtrack as the film played. It was INCREDIBLE.The orchestra were amazing. Like you could forget that they were’t actually part of the film. It was fascinating to watch them play as the film went on (though I imagine they’re so sick of Jurassic Park now having toured around the country doing this!). They were perfectly in sync and it was just so all-encompassing. Dinner was pretty good as well. Before the showing, we went to 7Bone Burger. I had the Triple-D burger (which comes with blue cheese sauce and bacon) and halloumi fries…And a cheeky side of chicken wings. Kyle had a fried chicken burger with halloumi fries and a chocolate milkshake. It was goooood. The milkshake (as I did help Kyle out a bit with it…*cough*) was SUPER thick. Personally I’m not a huge milkshake fan but if I were to have one myself it would be a thick one. It was delicious.Podcasts: I listen to a number of podcasts every week: BBC Five Live Film Review, Marathon Talk, Empire Film Review, TED Radio Hour, My Dad Wrote a Porno – and dip in and out of other ones that take my interest. But I’ve recently been finding myself running out of them (I listen to them in the car, walking Alfie or when I’m doing boring chores around the house). My lovely friend, Emma, recommended Fearne Cotton’s podcast Happy Place and it’s great!I listened to the Gary Barlow one first and found it really interesting. It’s amazing how celebrities who are so famous, earning so much money and seemingly living their “best life” can be taken down by depression or body image issues. I’ve since listened to the interview with Mel C and Stephen Fry and both were just as good. Heartily recommend.

Recovery: I’ve come a long way since I first started running. When I was facing all my injury and niggle woes I’d be foam rolling, stretching and icing until the cows came home. But recently I’ve been finding I only really need to do a bit of light stretching after my circuit workouts, foam rolling on my calves maybe once a week and, when I get the chance, lovely soaks in the bath with some of this amazing stuff.Vie Epsom foot and Bath Salts are fantastic addition to a hot bath. It apparently helps increase your magnesium levels and sulfates, which are quite tricky to get through food but can actually be absorbed through the skin. Both are really good for your joints and muscles in terms of recovery.I add a couple of cups (as you can see above – the cup doesn’t come with the salts FYI) in the bath and just relax and enjoy. I’ve found it can really decrease how much I’ll ache the next day. I don’t know about injury prevention but it definitely makes me feel better anyway.

Blondies: Amazingly I won more baked goods on Instagram again. I just seem to be very lucky (or enter ALL the competitions…). Anyway, the lovely company Fully Loaded Treats sent me six blondies, three different flavours.Oh my god they were good. There were M&M ones, Hershey’s Cookies and Cream ones and another type that I think were Kinder Bueno that were awesome.There’s something about blondies that I so love. I mean I do prefer brownies I think but blondies are a nice change now and again.

Dylan: My parents have three dogs (Lexi, Dylan and Sam) where I have just Alfie. Dylan is probably the most stupid out of them all (in a really cute and lovable way though). I can’t help but share how cute he looked the other morning.He’s very much a “I’d rather sleep than do anything else” kind of dog. Well, actually he’d rather eat than do anything else but sleep is a close second. I mean, let’s be honest, I think we all have a little Dylan inside of us all.

Do you prefer blondies or brownies?

Do you have any recovery tips or routines?

What podcasts do you listen to?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Epsom salts for free in return for a review on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Zary parkrun

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

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

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

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

Are you doing the Alphabet Challenge?

Do you like to do challenges like this?