Done being sensible

I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions or “new year, new me” mantras. But I do think it can be useful for people for motivation and some self-reflection.

I’ve definitely done a bit of self-reflection the past few weeks. There’s nothing like being single during Christmas that can make you think a bit more about yourself, I assure you.

In general, I’m quite a positive person. I don’t allow myself to wallow or sink into dark thoughts. I find other things to focus on and I have a solid family and friends unit who pick me up (or tell me to stop being so self-indulgent). I say this a lot and I truly believe it, I’m very lucky and have a fantastic life. I have a family who I can always fall back on emotionally and financially. My mum makes me feel beautiful, loved and boosts my self-esteem. My dad gives me sound advice, supports my crazy running adventures and will always be honest with me (he’s never afraid to tell me when I look rubbish, am being a pilock or need bringing back to earth). My sister is always there when I need those ‘girlie chats’ – boys, beauty and life, you know what I mean.

But I’m only human. Being single is pants. Granted, I haven’t made a huge amount of effort to “get out there”. I’m not a clubber, I don’t go to bars, I don’t use online the free dating apps and I’m not quite at the point to pay for the more “quality” ones. And in this day and age, you won’t bump into your soulmate at the supermarket. Sometimes in my lowest and most self-indulgent moments I wonder, “what’s wrong with me?”. I know, I know, it’s pathetic and I’m not asking for pity or people to say “oh but Anna you’re lovely!” like my mum would. I’m just genuinely reflecting on the fact that I’m not a complete mess of a person and have a solid life, yet I’m sat watching everyone around me jump on a train I don’t have a ticket for. I don’t even know how to buy the damn ticket.

So this year I’m going to become a bit more of a “yes person” and stop following the straight and narrow road.

Basically, I’m a sensible person. [I say “sensible” here but I know a lot of past events have shown I’m actually not that sensible because I’m quite the idiot. What I mean is I’m not a spontaneous person]. I don’t really do crazy things (New Year’s Day aside…). I work hard and I save, something I’m very lucky to be able to continue to do now I live at my parent’s and have rented my flat out despite being on a smaller salary. I have goals and plans for this year but mostly surrounding running (Dubai… New York… Jersey ;-)). But I think a lot before I plan on going anywhere and over-analyse everything to the nth degree. I cost everything up, I work it into my budget, put it in my spreadsheet, ponder and hesitate.

Above all, I make sure my savings remain solid. Other than my unruly leggings habit, I really hate spending money. My father would call me “tight” but being single means you are your own means. If I lost my job I lose my income (well, not strictly true now that I’m renting my flat out but you know what I mean). I know my parents are there for me, but having a large savings is my safety net and cotton wool.

But I’m fed up of doing everything by the book and being sensible. I need to go and do something a bit “non-Anna” and throw caution to the wind. I don’t mean spend all my money and live life without a thought for the future of course…but I also shouldn’t sit on a pile of money that is essentially doing nothing. I don’t have any plans to upgrade my flat or move out, buy a fancy car, have a baby.  Without getting too morbid here, I could die tomorrow. What am I waiting for? Clearly I have no ties, no children and am armed full of independence. The time is NOW.

Basically what I’m saying is, I want to stop waiting for something that might not happen and just go and live life to the full. On that note (and trying, but probably failing, not to be have a stereotypical “omg need to find myself” moment), I’m off to Bali in April. A non-running, chill my mind out kind of holiday. Go alone but with a group of strangers. Find a bit of peace in my buzzing brain without using running as a distraction. But in general, for this year, I intend to take each day as a precious gift that I’m alive and I’m a strong, independent woman. My life is now and I’m not waiting for anyone or anything.

*Cue Beyonce*

Have you ever felt a bit… lost?

Have you ever been to Bali?

Are you a saver or a spender?

Conwy parkrun and my trip to Llandudno

On Friday after work I headed off with my mum and dad to Llandudno to visit my grandparents. I love going to North Wales because it’s so beautiful and we always end up doing lots of walking and getting some good fresh air in the countryside.

The drive there was a long one though. We had to drop off our four dogs at my other grandad in Stoke-On-Trent first because the grandad I’m staying with is allergic. So it adds on a chunk. We had dinner on the road (I’d packed a healthy salad only to then be negated by all the sweets I bought at the services…) and arrived just before midnight. I was pooped!

The next morning, of course, though was parkrun. I’ve done the Conwy parkrun before and was slightly tempted to do Deganwy parkrun but it was about 30 minutes away. Having not had as much sleep the night before we decided with Conwy which was literally five minutes drive down the road, meaning we could get up at 8.15am and easily have enough time.

“We” was my dad and I. It was rather cold and unsurprisingly no one else fancied joining! We arrived at 8.45am and stayed in the car for as long as possible (such a luxury). It was very cold outside. My grandparents thought I was mad wearing my shorts but I much prefer to run in shorts than leggings and figured I’d be fine for three miles.IMG_1652We got out of the car and I did a bit of a warm-up in my coat by running up the path and back. I did some high knees and kicks… like I knew what I was doing 😉 My dad wanted to post on to his Instagram (which he rarely uses) so I helped him do that.IMG_1653I didn’t realise we were being photographed! It was only after I asked the photographer if he could take a photo of us that he said he’d already done one but would happily do another. (Thank you SJ Photography!)IMG_1654He was very friendly and kind, even saying if we emailed him he’d print one out and post to it us!

There weren’t a lot of people – probably because of how cold it was. And very few people in shorts (no females). But actually the photo below shows loads so I’m probably wrong! As we began I started FAR too fast. IMG_1655I just got very carried away. The problem was I started right near the front (because there weren’t that many people and I wanted to get a good start)…but seriously too fast! I looked at my watch and it said 6:08! Yeah I hadn’t suddenly gained a load of speed, this would not end well if I didn’t slow down.IMG_1656The first part of the course runs down a compacted dirt track before then reaching a footbridge that goes over a railway track and road. It’s a very annoying bridge in that it’s quite a windy one to go up and over. It did help slow me down though and I found my right pacing afterwardsIMG_1649You then head towards the Conwy Castle along the pavement before swinging back and then along another compacted dirt track following the banks of the Conwy River. It was a little breezy along here but I was still glad for my shorts despite the cold wind. My upper body was getting quite hot in my long sleeves but the gloves were certainly required.

It was handy being towards the front as it meant we could run alongside the puddles on the right-hand side of the path (unfortunately when we turned around and headed back though, as we were the first to come down there, the people still coming our way had to navigate the puddles. It felt a bit unfair but I just followed the person in front).Conwy parkrunWe reached the turnaround point and it was a very sharp about-turn round a cone. It was like coming to a standstill before having to gain the speed again – not fun! Then we headed back down the path again (missing the puddles like I said). As there weren’t many people the tail end of the runners came quite soon. We followed the same route back (missing out on the run towards the castle) and back over the bridge. This time the bridge destroyed me. I had dropped down to 6.30 minute pace but the bridge pushed my pace back towards 6.40. As I came back to the straight path to the finish I had nothing left to give for the final sprint. I felt like I was crawling as I got back to the finish and was grateful to stop. (Another cracking photo from SJ Photography) IMG_1657My time was 20:48, second female. I’m really pleased with the time. Still in the 20s! My last time at Conwy parkrun (about 14 months ago) I did 21:40 so I’m over the moon I was almost a minute quicker. I just read back my last post on the Conwy parkrun and saw that I was 17th on that run, whereas this time I was 16th! I was still 2nd female though. Funny.Conwy splitsAs I put my coat quickly back on a man came up to me who had finished before me. He said well done on my run but said I started too fast. He said he was surprised at how quickly I set off…and then how quickly I slowed down. He gave me a bit of advice (in a nice way, he was very friendly) and said my time was quite fast for the course, which was very gracious of him (considering there were two 17:xx runners and several sub 20s I’m not sure it’s that fast!!).IMG_1590After parkrun and breakfast, the whole family headed for a nice walk down to Conwy for a drink in the pub. The walk actually follows a good chunk of the parkrun so I was able to take some good photosIMG_1645I also spotted a frozen yogurt place! I mean, there’s not even one in Southampton. It was very cold though so I decided not to have any – maybe save myself for another day.IMG_1642I had planned to do a 15 mile run the next day but it was looking less and less likely as the snow warnings were coming in. My lovely grandparents had actually planned the route for me because I am essentially an idiot. I had a choice of two routes. Either a 3.7 mile loop to do four or so times or a five mile loop to do three times. They were both equally good but in the end I decided to go with the three loop one as mentally it seemed easier to do in my mind (and also there were fewer turnings where I could go wrong…).IMG_1664Unfortunately, though I woke up the next day and found the snow coming down quite heavily and the ground covered and fairly slippy. I went for a quick walk outside (and slipped on the first step…!) and decided it would be far safer to postpone the run to Monday. Though I was very tempted to go my grandad convinced me otherwise with some sound advice (though I did think he was maybe being a little dramatic when he said I could get exposure and die… these mountaineer types, eh! ;-))Snow in ConwyAnyway we had a lovely day nonetheless with lots of walking and then a Christmas meal in their local golf club (of which both my grandparents regular play – they’ve very active!)Christmas lunchI had mushroom soup, turkey roast and then a treacle tart with honeycomb and ice cream. Delicious! And good fuelling for the next day’s long run.

Have you been to North Wales before?

Do you run in the snow?

Are your grandparents still active?

Raving time

Now normally I’d be having a few rants but actually I can’t think of anything lately that’s been bugging me. I’m pretty solidly in the rave camp at the moment!

Rave: I’m really busy. I love it when my diary is chockablock full of fun and exciting events coming up. I’m off to London on Saturday for more parkrun tourism and brunching with my lovely friend, James. Then it’s the Gosport Half Marathon on Sunday (pacing another lovely friend, Martin). And then the following weekend heading to Brighton to visit even more lovely friends (all my friends are lovely!)… Christmas meals at work and with friends, heading to London again for a Harry Potter escape room… Secret Santas. Ahh I’m just in a very happy place right now.

Rave: And continuing on this theme… having an already jam-packed 2018 planned! I have quite a few exciting events/holidays I’m (hoping) to be able to do next year. I mean, who needs money right…? Most of them in some way running-related 🙂 I say hoping because who knows what my legs will be like next year, but I hope to do most of what I have planned. If all goes to plan (and I don’t bankrupt myself) I should be going abroad FIVE times. Not for massive holidays I stress, but mini-breaks and trips.

Rave: Passing my three month probation at Wiggle. I can’t believe I’ve been here for over three months! It’s mental. And, as I’ve said so many times, I really do love it. And, as far as I can tell, I think I’m doing OK.

Rave: Now THIS is one of my biggest raves at the moment. Do you remember a while ago when, the idiot that I am, I took the wrong barcode to parkrun for a number of weeks? I tried to get the parkrun support HQ people to help me out but, understandably, it wasn’t something they were willing to amend because, let’s face it, it’s my mistake and would require a lot of faff on their side.

Anyway, after speaking to my friend, Joe, who’s been a run director at Netley parkrun, he mentioned that results for individual parkruns could be retrospectively changed. Like when people forget their barcodes and then email them afterwards they can be added. So, I emailed Netley (where I had three parkruns under the wrong barcode) and explained what I’d done. I mean, I do know the main run director, Peter, at Netley so I guess that makes it easier, but he was more than helpful (incidentally the same Peter who sold me his Portsmouth Marathon place – so hugely grateful to him!). He changed the results and lo! and behold I got three emails through congratulating me on my result!I also emailed Brighton & Hove parkrun where I’d also used the wrong barcode (and the one I desperately wanted adding to my account as I’ve only done it once and really want to do a different Brighton parkrun when I visit next). And they too have changed my result over. I am BEYOND pleased. Thank you, Brighton & Hove parkrun! The email they sent to me as well was lovely. They said they don’t usually make changes so long after the event but they like to look after their tourists. Well, I am certainly feeling the love. I know this might sound really sad but I’m literally over the moon about this now. I’ve now done 151 parkruns (and 30 different UK ones and one US). Only 99 until my next t-shirt…Rave: Running at lunchtime (runching if you will). It’s so much nicer to run at lunch than it is after work. I’m so much more motivated to run when it’s not as cold and definitely not as dark. It also means I can toddle off home quicker after work.

Wiggle has great shower facilities and also a great number of routes around the office. It’s especially good for when I do speed work (I’ve done two speedworks now!) as the lake I run round is soft underfoot and almost exactly a mile. Ideal! No traffic lights, dog walkers or hills to break the flow of trying to get some solid speedwork in. No excuses basically.

On Tuesday I did one mile warm-up, followed by two miles at 6:50-55min/mile pace, followed by 0.5 miles easy, and then another two miles at 6:50-55min/mile pace and then a cool down. I mean it was slightly awkward as I kept passing the same work friends who were having a walk on their lunch break so I must have looked a bit mad. But it was such a great feeling to hit those paces and get another solid workout in. Plus, with it being soft underfoot I feel like this is better for me (*cough* injury-prone) than doing the workouts on concrete. 2mile repeatsDon’t get me wrong, I find I do ‘fear’ these workouts and begin them with some trepidation. I know it’s going to feel hard and the temptation to sack it off and do a standard 8min/mile run is SO tempting. But I know this is good for me and the feeling I get when I finish is fantastic. I just need to make sure I stay motivated. I need to mix things up as well so if anyone has any good marathon-focused speed workouts for around 6 miles I’d be grateful for the inspiration…

What are you happy about right now?

Are your parkrun stats important to you?

What speed workouts do you do?

Running Lately

So, running… how’s it going for me? 

Dare I even THINK the thought that running is going OK at the moment. In fact, this year has been really good. Like really good. Without jumping the gun too much, because we are still in November here, 2017 has been one of my best running years. Not necessarily because I hit all my PB’s. In fact, I’ve only achieved one PB this year (finally a decent 10 miler at the Great South Run). No, my running has been good because I have only been injured TWICE.

IMG_00361:13:23 at the GSR

OK now that might sound a lot to all you hardy lucky runners who rarely get injured but for me this is I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E. The first niggle (not really an injury even) was straight after the Tokyo Marathon when I decided to go and do a crazy tough 7 miler across rough terrain and managed to aggravate my ankle. It kept me out of running for about a week. So pretty good for my standard.Annaberg runThe second was indeed an injury and was down to me being stupid and wanting to run ALL THE MILES at the Austria Run Camp. I still don’t regret it as at the time it was amazing. But when I got home my knee was really not happy with me and I had to take off 2-3 weeks of running.

These two injuries are so much better than things that I’ve had in the past; hip niggles, IT band issues, shin pain… which were insidious and seemingly never ending. One thing after another which stop-started my running so much.

I don’t think I’m in the clear or that I’ve become a different person entirely though. I do still believe I’m injury-prone. I’m not so arrogant to believe that I won’t get injured tomorrow, because believe me I’m constantly waiting for the Running God to sniper me down at any point. However, I do believe I’ve helped myself avoid niggles that I might easily have picked up before.

I know I always say this but strength training really is my saviour. I go to the gym four times a week and two of those sessions are focused on my legs and glutes. I also spend 10-15 minutes before EVERY gym session doing some dynamic stretching, foam rolling tight spots and doing resistance band work for my glutes, such as monster walks. Basically what my physio and sports massage therapists have always told me to do…IMG_0607For my ‘legs day’ at the gym I focus on squats (switching every other week between high volume and lower weights to high weights and lower volume), both single, conventional and other variations, lunges, step-ups and things like that. For glutes I do heavy hip thrusts, runner pulls, glute kickbacks, curtsy lunges and deep sumo squats. I also keep my core strength tip-top with planks and leg lifts (as well as compound strength moves which work the entire body).

The proof is in the pudding… injuries being few and far between. I feel more smooth in my running – and stronger. I can stand on one leg with my eyes closed and not fall over (try it). I can feel my glutes helping me out and after a marathon I can feel they’ve been worked, rather than when I finished my first marathon and it was all in my quads.

I’m 100% not saying I’m the strongest runner, or that I’m amazing or anything as absurd as that. I still have a HUGE respect for the marathon – and running in general. And when I’m running strong I do feel the creeping doubt of, “but when will this end?”. I know injury is never that far away from me. But for the moment, I’m reveling in this happy time and am so so grateful for every run I get to do.

And now let’s go to the completely counter-intuitive and Stupid Anna Decision. I’ve signed up to do the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in December…as a sort of “Stepping stone” marathon before Dubai (they’ve just over a month apart). It was sold out but luckily I got a place from a running friend who can no longer run it.

OK I hear you saying “Anna, whhhhhy! You’re going to get injured”. Yes. Fair point entirely. But! I’m going to run it like I ran the New Forest Marathon. 9 minute miles, ‘easy’ running, nothing stupid. I need to put to bed the final demon of my running past. Bournemouth Marathon – check. The Great South Run – check. Gosport Half Marathon – almost check… (PLEASE HOLD ON). And the Portsmouth Coastal… the first marathon I signed up to. And my first DNS. It’s supposed to be a very low-key, chilled out affair. Yes the weather is likely to be horrendous, your feet risk getting wet in some of the coastal paths… but I want to do it. I might be being incredibly stupid. I give everyone the full right to say “I told you so, you idiot”.

When was your last injury?

How do you stay injury-free?

parkrun Review – Southsea parkrun

After running Southsea parkrun twice I thought I’d do a review of it. I feel quite close to Southsea in a weird way at the moment (both physically and, er, spiritually?). I recently ran the Great South Run (which starts in Southsea and runs a good portion around there) and I also work in Portsmouth, where Southsea is located. Not only this but a lot of the people I work with come from that area. So here’s my parkrun review.IMG_1330Location: Located on the Southsea promenade, the course begins at Speakers Corner by Rocksby’s Café. It’s very close to the Pyramids (and, for those who know it well like myself, a mile away from The Tenth Hole café). It’s about three miles from Gunwharf Quays (and the Gosport Ferry).IMG_1319Parking: There’s lots of parking all around Southsea (FYI it does require parallel parking. As someone who isn’t so great at this, it’s handy to know in advance!). Very close to the parkrun start you will need to pay and display. However, if you park further away (closer to The Tenth Hole) it’s free.

Amenities: There are no toilets. I repeat, NO toilets. It’s all very open so getting a wild wee somewhere is also very tricky. There are cafés about the place but I think it’s rude to use their facilities and not buy something… For after parkrun though brunch spots and cake opportunities are vast. Even a cheeky ice cream! It’s very much your traditional British seaside town.IMG_1317Elevation: Flat as a pancake. Not even a slight incline.

Course: The course runs along the prom, past the Southsea Pier, for 1.5 miles, then you do a U-turn and head back exactly the same way 1.5 miles.Southsea parkrun course

The sharp turn will break your stride of course, and because it’s straight along the seafront with very little cover, you will be subject to the elements. When it’s windy, you will know about it. So although the elevation is a PB dream, any quick times could easily be destroyed by a windy day. If you’re familiar with the Great South Run or the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon, the final miles are similar. Despite this, the views are lovely of the sea and you can smell the tasty fodder from the different cafés you run past. It’s all on tarmac.Southsea parkrunNumber of participants: There are regularly 300-400 runners. It can be a bit tricky at the start as everyone is so bunched up and promenade isn’t that wide. However, once you get going within half a mile or so everyone has diffused out and there’s more space to overtake or find your footing a bit easier. But prepare for a few elbows and tricky navigations at the start.

The volunteers, as at most parkruns, are very friendly. Though there weren’t a huge number of volunteers like at some parkruns and I think this is mainly due to the fact that the course is so self-contained and simple it really doesn’t need many. I do enjoy Southsea parkrun when I do it but I couldn’t do it every week as it’s not hugely exciting in terms of the course and though the flatness is great I do like a bit of variation. What I like though is that you can see people running the other direction as it’s an out-and-back. I find that quite good to take your mind off of things.SouthseaTo keep up to date, Southsea parkrun Twitter is @Southseaparkrun  and check-out their Facebook page. And of course, the parkrun website.

If you’d like to write a parkrun review for this parkrun or any other one you’ve been to, please contact me: annatheapple@gmail.com I’d love more input! 

Do you prefer flat, fast but not particularly exciting or more undulating and interesting courses?

Have you ever been to Southsea?

Do you enjoy seaside parkruns?