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.**

All the good stuff in life

I love this time of year. Before it starts to get really cold, before the super short days, and all the beautiful colours of the leaves and cool running weather. I’m feeling particularly happy at the moment. Life is good, running is going well and I have some exciting things coming up. Happy days. So things making me smile lately include but not limited to, are…

Bake Off delights: More tasty baking from lovely colleagues at work. Every week we have something new and it really does brighten up a Monday. In ironic celebration of the other week’s vegan week, my work friend, Trystan, brought in maple bacon cupcakes. Yes they may sound weird but they were really tasty. I’m a firm believer that bacon is a good addition to sweet things 😉And yesterday was a very zesty and tasty lemon tart. Genuinely I’ll be sad when this ends. I’ve gotten used to the constant supply of home-baked goodies.And even more on the note of cakes… It was Kyle’s birthday the other week (and his twin brother, Zack’s). His team at work bought him a “unicorn cake” from the CoOp downstairs (we both work at Wiggle FYI) so I was able to have a slice. I’ve wanted to try it for AGES, passing it so many times in CoOp so I was quite excited.If you’re not into ultra sweet and sickly cakes, I’d avoid but for me this was perfection. I’m basically a small child.

That evening, his family, him and I went out to Coast to Coast to celebrate. Before (yes more) cake, we had some really tasty food. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you’ll know just how often I go to this restaurant. It’s a local favourite after a marathon.I went for chicken wings to start and ribs for main (predictable AF).
We had a voucher for “buy one main and get another free” but as there were 7 of us we needed another main to make it work so Kyle and I shared a main chicken wings as a starter so we could get it for free. Happily this meant another portion of chips! Genius 😉 The waiters were really nice -Zack and Kyle got free cocktails.Then for pudding Kyle’s sister, Lucy, had made two INCREDIBLE chocolate cakes. Kyle’s was covered in Malteasers, Dime and Bueno. I had to try both of course!I did prefer Kyle’s though. Usually I’m not a huge chocolate cake fan but this honestly rocked my world. As a thank you to the amazing waiters, we gave them a slice of cake too.New trainers: My trainers have racked up over 400 miles so it was time to swap them out for a new pair. When I originally bought my trainers I bought two more pairs of the same kind because they were so cheap. £35 each in the Nike Outlet! So pleased.I love the colour! And they’re so soft and comfortable. I’m so pleased I’m set for the next 800 or so miles with this pair and my safety stock pair. I do love adidas Supernova Boosts but I’ve found these work for me really well too. They’re Nike Lunarglides. I had them in a lilac purple but I much prefer this bright colour.

Surprising speedy runs: I haven’t done any structured speedwork lately. Track…ehhh it’s just not a priority right now. I don’t have the urge to do it and the motivation is just not there. But I do like to surprise myself some days by just putting a blast into a random run. Actually this run I’m about to talk about was the day after #allthefood from Coast to Coast. I felt amazing going out at lunch and decided to see what I could do.

I randomly managed a 43:30 10k! It was a flat route I often do and the temperature was lovely and cool so really the odds were in my favour (and I was fully powered by cake from the day before).And I’m so pleased that I managed to pick up speed towards the end! Yes it was tough but not impossibly so. I’m just pleased I’m maintaining some sort of speed despite slacking on the track front. I have ideas of maybe “going for it” at the Gosport Half Marathon (November) and maybe the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon (December). Not PB attempts specifically (I think I’d need a lot more work ahead of those races to get under my current times), but just “let’s see where I’m at” kind of runs. Whoooo knows. I haven’t been injured for a bit so that’s probably in store for me soon 😉

What are you enjoying lately?

Do you like super sweet cakes? I’m very much big on icing/frosting.

How many miles do you run in your trainers before changing them? I used to be super cautious and run up to 300 miles but now I can get away with 400-450.

Things I’m Loving Lately – May

It’s almost June. How did that happen?

Aftershokz: So. The saga of my Aftershokz. I’ve mentioned it a few times, but after the Brighton Marathon I lost my beloved Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones (they did so many races and long runs with me…devastating). I either threw them away accidentally with my foil blanket (standard Anna move) or I left them on the beach. I was really upset about losing them because honestly they’re so good for running outdoors. As someone who is generally an idiot, hearing the outside world while I run is a help. But I do love listening to music and podcasts so with Aftershokz it really is the best of both worlds. Good sound quality while also allowing you to hear the surroundings. It basically uses “bone technology” to transfer the sound to you, rather than through your ears. Your ears are therefore left unobstructed.

Aftershokz amazingly reached out to me through Twitter to ask me what had happened and I explained. They were very sympathetic and offered me a 30% discount code. As they’re £100 to replace my old ones that would be quite a chunk off. However when I tried to use the discount code it wouldn’t work so I messaged them to ask if I was doing something wrong (usually the case, let’s be honest). It turns out they were the US Aftershokz and the discount code would only work for the US site… ah.

Instead they offered me an unboxed test pair of the Aftershokz Trekz Air, the new version, FOR FREE. They wouldn’t be brand new box fresh of course but they would be a working pair with all the bits and bobs working fine, simply just not in the box. Of course I said yes!They arrived a week or so later. And they are amazing. I mean they work just as well as my Titanium’s did (the model before) but they’re a bit lighter and more streamline. I love them. I can’t stress how much I love Aftershokz headphones for running. During races I like to hear the crowds and of course the marshals, and these headphones just give me the option of both hearing my music and still absorbing the race. Not only this but they’re England Athletics approved, meaning they can legally be used in races. I also like that I can keep wearing them when they’re turned off without them blocking sound out. During a marathon I won’t want to listen to music or podcasts all the time, so just having them sat above my ears nice and comfortably means I can still hear properly out of my actual ears. Happy happy.

Obscene amounts of chocolate: I was in Gunwharf Quays on Saturday to see the new Avengers Film (a rave in itself really) and while waiting for the film time, we had a mosey in the Cadbury’s shop. I haven’t been in that shop in ages and thought it would be really over-priced, but actually everything was really reasonable! It wasn’t like dirt cheap of course but it was probably cheaper than the supermarket. And I was SO pleased to have finally found the holy grail of chocolate… the white chocolate Toblerone. I’ve been obsessed about this since my friend Kate got one for her birthday a few months ago. She’d said she got it from the airport and as I hadn’t spotted it anywhere else I was resigned to only seeing it after a holiday (the time when we all want to eat lots of chocolate…hmm).

But lo! And behold! There it was. And under £4 for a decent sized one.I also picked up a big bag of Mis-Shapes. They’re apparently factory rejects of odd shaped chocolates. Well, I was fairly disappointed with my selection. It’s basically a bag of fudges and a few coffee chocolates. I hate coffee flavoured chocolate so really it’s a bag of fudges. Hmmmm! I thought there would be a bit more variety so I feel a bit short-changed. I guess it’s the luck of the draw as well with things like that. Nonetheless, chocolate is chocolate and it was quite cheap for the amount you got.

Supplements I’m taking: I don’t really take that many supplements because I’ve read a lot of articles about how it’s essentially giving you expensive wee as the vitamins etc. just go straight through you. That said, I’ve heard some good stuff about Omega 3 supplements and Magnesium. Through work I was given some supplements to test out for free (how many times do I need to say this… I love my job).They’re from the brand Puori I tried the Organic Whey Protein, the Liquid Fish Oil, the Magnesium and the Vitamin D. I personally don’t think I need to take Vitamin D right now because I get enough sun now with the day being longer. I walk Alfie twice a day, go for a lunchtime walk at work and run outside… so I’m guessing I’m OK on that front. So I’ll save them for the winter months.With the liquid fish oil I was a bit dubious because, well, fish oil. But it’s absolutely fine. It has a faint taste of lemon but it’s not sweet. It doesn’t taste fishy and it’s only a small amount you take. It is a bit greasy if you spill some on yourself though (standard Anna move again).

The magnesium tablets are good but I’m getting through them quickly as you take three at a time. I also had to put them on my bedside table because you take them before bed and I kept forgetting. Though I can’t tell for sure, I do think this is helping with my recoveries. I’ve heard good things about magnesium, especially when combined with Zinc as this supplement is. I’m all about injury prevention!

Do you take any supplements?

Do you use headphones when you run?

What is your favourite chocolate?

**Full Disclaimer: I was given the supplements for free at work in exchange of a review on the Wiggle site. I was also sent the Aftershokz for free but they did not ask me for anything in return.**

Rants and Raves #41

I’m back with some more rants and raves. Enjoy!

Rant: Everyday a new wonder product or superfood appears in the media that is going to prolong your life, make you younger, make you happy, keep you going…blah blah. So it’s really no surprise that a cafe in East London is selling “charcoal activated vegan croissants”.OK surely it’s just a piece of charcoal shaped as a croissant? I mean, come on now. Just buy a regular croissant and eat your five a day. Stop with this nonsense. Hilariously, BuzzFeed wrote an article on how it tasted: “It’s squidgier than I expected, and doesn’t have the burnt notes I thought there would be.” [Source] Crucially, they didn’t say delicious. If I eat a croissant, that’s kind of what I’m looking for.

Rave: And on an entirely unrelated note on superfoods and their magical properties… I’ve been trying out the Manuka Doctor Facial Oils. As you probably know if you’re a long-term reader (or you know me in person), I’m not a big make-up wearer or skin care advocate in general. I mean, I will moisturise when I remember but in general I don’t do anything. I’m very lucky in that I have fairly OK skin and dark features which helps on this front. However I could probably look tons better if I put the effort in, but ehhh.So I was intrigued when I was sent the Replenishing Facial Oil. Oil for the skin? Really? But it sounded good: “anti-ageing” and “rich in powerful plant extracts designed to revitalise and restore radiance”. Well, we could all do with some of that surely! Nearing 30 and I ain’t getting any younger. The idea behind it is that it helps regain elasticity and smooth out fine lines.

It was also the Winner of a Beauty Advisor Award in the 2016 LOOK Beauty Awards, and the ingredients don’t sound hella scary:

Manuka Oil, Rose Hip Oil, Argan Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Cranberry Seed Oil, Grape Seed Oil, Hazelnut Seed Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Avocado Oil, Wheat Germ Oil, Sunflower Seed Oil, Borage Seed Oil, Plum Seed Oil, Peach Kernal Oil, Blackcurrant Seed Oil, Raspberry Seed Oil & Carrot Seed and Root Oil.

How did I find it? Actually I really liked this. You use a dropper thing (like a pipette?) and then smooth it onto your face. It is oily (obviously…) but it didn’t leave my face oily if that makes sense. I actually thought my face looked a lot brighter quite quickly, weirdly enough. I did really think it made a difference and will happily continue to use it. My only niggle with it is that I don’t really like the smell. It’s not an unpleasant smell – it’s slightly floral? But I’m just not a fan. It doesn’t linger though so that’s something.

Rave: Last week was a solid week of eating. I went to Casa Brasil with running friends, Mike and Rebecca. Neither had met each other but had briefly spoken on Twitter. Rebecca is a core team member at Lee on Solent parkrun and Mike is a core team member at Netley, both love running, parkrun and meat so I was pretty sure everyone would get on. They did, happy days. (Also check out Rebecca’s blog!)Casa Brasil never disappoints but I always eat far too much. I just get carried away and the strong FOMO effect takes over… is that the Parmesan pork I see? Damn I need to get some of that too! Chicken wings? Load me up! Chorizo sausages? Yes please! I’m my own worst enemy. But I did enjoy it, even if I needed about four pints of water during the night because of how salty the food is. Worth it.Rant: Recently I seem to have been doing an excessive number of presentations at work. OK, just three but it’s felt a lot. The first one went terribly. I mean, my content was OK (well, so I was told) but the technical elements of getting my laptop to hook up to the big screen and then having to use someone else’s laptop who didn’t have all the logins I need…gahh it was so awkward. Lots of filling time and awkward laughter. I got lots of pity praise afterwards… “It wasn’t that bad…” and “Ah don’t worry Anna, it was fiiiiiine”. Uh huh.

Then the next presentation was in front of my BIG boss. It was a less formal affair but he would interrupt and ask lots of hard questions… tough. But that went far better (I learnt from my mistakes. never demonstrate anything live in a presentation – always use screenshots).

Then the third was probably the worst as it was standing up in front of the whole office and presenting (in front of around 60 people). My voice was shaking. My hands were shaking. But thankfully that too went OK. WHEW.

I do feel proud of myself though. I know this is a bit of blowing my own trumpet but I’ve come a long way since starting and I do still love my job and what I do. And you do need to step outside your comfort zone to grow, so I’ll stop complaining.

Rant: And before I get ahead of myself on growing and being a better person… I still do stupid shizz. Like forget my hairbrush when I go to the gym in the morning and only realise after I’ve washed my hair. Now as a girl with long hair, this is somewhat of a tricky situation. Trying to de-tangle it all with my fingers was not a winning solution but the only solution I had. I couldn’t really blow-dry it as that would tangle it further so I just had to scrape it as best as I could into two plaits. Oh, this was on the day I wanted to look somewhat reasonable because I was doing the aforementioned big presentation. What a knob.

Have you done anything stupid recently?

Do you use any facial oils?

Do you get won over by any crazy sounding superfoods?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the facial oil for free in exchange for a review on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Rants and Raves #40

I am in a very happy place right now. Life is good. I mean, a marathon PB does do that to you, but life in general asides from that is going well too. Here are some bits and bobs I’m loving and ranting about lately.

Rave: I had literally one of the best Mondays. My work had organised a bake sale to raise money for Stand Up To Cancer and it just so happened to be on the day after I’d run the Brighton Marathon. Usually the day of the marathon straight after you don’t feel like a whole lot (despite having dreamed of all the food you’ll eat). Though I did refuel well, I was more than ready the NEXT day to celebrate with a lot of sugar.Literally I was the first one at the cakes when the email was sent around and I loaded my plate up. For my first round, I had a slice of Victoria sponge (heavenly. Normally I’m not that big a fan as I find it a bit dull but my god this was a good one), a salted caramel cupcake and a white chocolate cookie.The salted caramel cupcake was very gooey and so delicious. Post lunch I had round two, another salted caramel cupcake (it was just so good the first time), another slice of Victoria sponge and a salted caramel crepe (which I heated in the microwave). And in the afternoon, PURELY to be polite to my friend, I tried his chocolate cake… gahhhh so good.So I definitely think I’ve caught up with what I burnt the day before 😉

Rant: Still on the subject of cake… Right each to their own and all that, but it hurts my soul that Victoria Beckham had a watermelon cake for her birthday. Not a cake in the shape of a watermelon but a cake made of watermelon (some may argue that that’s not even a cake).She’s always been rumoured to not eat much and be super conscious of unhealthy food (and is super slim) so I’m not entirely surprised but COME ON. Just have a slice of cake. (Obviously I’m making a snap judgement here purely on what she projected to social media and have no idea if she did eat cake in her own time blah blah blah so this might be an unfair comment, but whatever).

Rave: OK this is one for the ladies predominately. I’ve recently downloaded Clue. It’s a period tracking app.Now I am a big fan of apps that track stuff. I track my running, my steps, my sleep, sometimes I’ll have a mosey on MyFitnessPal if I want to know the nutritional value of something (I don’t track meals or food though – that would probably trigger me to become overly obsessed, which I certainly don’t want to be). But anyway, I like stats and data.

I love this app because you can fill in lots of lovely detail about your cycle (god I hate that word) – I won’t go into the specifics, but you know what I mean. Lots of things are affected by your hormones and period so you can fill out this data and then after a few months it can help forecast and predict things for you. It also tells you when you’re most fertile and ovulating and uses the data you put it to learn and predict. It’s also FREE and someone else can track your cycle too if you share it with them (yeah bit weird but hey whatever floats your boat).

Rave: I love movies. I love food. I LOVE the sound of Taste Film. Basically there’s a monthly film experience where the audience eats the food that’s served within the film (or basically relates to the themes of the film). Oh my god how good does this sound?? Apparently they did Bridget Jones’ Diary and actually had blue soup. The food looks amazing. I would so love to do this at some point. My only issue is it’s only in London… standard.

Rant: The London Marathon have changed their Good For Age Entries. GFA is basically the way that some (UK based only I believe) runners can get into London ‘guaranteed’ by achieving a certain time. I was able to get into London last year through this method as my marathon PB was sub 3:45. Anyway, they’ve changed some of the criteria.Mary wrote a great blog post highlighting the changes and her own opinion on this so check that out as it’s a good read. My opinion is this. OK it’s a very over-subscribed marathon and I imagine they needed to re-asses and readjust the times (well, the men’s time mainly) because of the demand. I personally don’t think the current ballot system is the best approach (it’s not really explained how the ballot system picks people and some people believe it could be down to the London Marathon wanting a spread of different people etc. etc. so some people who have entered like five times still can’t get in). It’s VERY hard to get a place. So the GFA was one way for certain runners to get in.Now that’s fine. They can set whatever criteria they like – it’s their race. What I object wholeheartedly to is that they changed these times mid marathon season. It’s like changing where the goal posts are half-way through a football match. For example, James was aiming for a sub 3:05 at Brighton so he could then do London next year. If he’d have gotten 3:04:59 he’d have been super pleased – as of Sunday the GFA still stood that his age group with a sub 3:05 could get in. Then a day or so later, the times changed and suddenly he needed a sub-3. Luckily for him he did get a sub 3…but how devastating for people who didn’t but were momentarily happy thinking they had qualified? Or that they’re entire training had been focused on sub 3:05 and NOT sub 3? Five minutes is quite a chunk!

There were a lot of sad people on social media who had this exact issue. That said, I don’t think London is the be all and end all of marathons. Yes it’s easy for me to say that having done it, but I only really did it because it was a Major and I’m trying to do them all. Obviously it depends on your experience, but though I did have a good experience I wouldn’t say it was the best marathon – not even top three for me. It’s a faff. It’s super busy. It’s expensive to get to and from (don’t forget, they don’t send out the bibs either so you need to go to London twice). And most importantly, there are SO many other good marathons in the UK and outside the UK – better than London, in my opinion. London IS NOT the only marathon.

What do you think about qualifying times for races?

Have you ever done London?

Do you like health tracking apps?