What I’m loving lately – November

Things lately have been really good. Life in general is going well – I’m happy and enjoying life. Work is going well. And running is still going well.

Running: This year has been so good for my running. Whatever I’ve been doing has clearly been working because not only have I been consistently running but I’ve been running strong. I feel in a very positive place – I can only hope this lasts!

Last week I ran another fast 10k (42 mins flat – my official PB is 42:50) on a random lunchtime run.The colder weather definitely helps me to run faster and the 10k route I take is super flat so this helps. I should probably do a 10k race and give it some welly to make it official (as I’ve now beaten my official PB twice on a training run). But at the same time, I don’t want to enter a 10k race this side of Christmas before my next marathon… aaaaand I hate 10ks. Though I do have Stubbington 10k mid-January. Not really a goal in my head though if I’m honest. I’m just happy to know I’m a bit faster.

parkrun Alphabet Challenge: After completing the challenge, Kyle surprised me with a very lovely present. He had a hoodie made with all the corresponding parkruns typed out and the date which I’d first done that parkrun (as for some I’d done multiple times). He even put a heart on Netley because it was my home parkrun. And he made sure to choose parkruns that were meaningful to me where I had multiple choices for the letters.I also liked the front. It was a very thoughtful and lovely gift. I wore it with pride at Netley parkrun the week after I got back from Zary. Everyone was impressed 🙂 It’s a niche challenge, I grant you, but I’m so proud of myself and it’s so nice to have something to commemorate it.Compression socks: I was recently sent some compression socks from Rymora Socks. I’m a big fan of compression socks.I wear them for the majority of my long runs and have worn them for every single marathon. There’s some science to support that wearing compression socks after running can help speed up recovery (increase the blood flow and reduce stiffness) but in terms of during the run, the jury is out.However, I personally like to wear them during long runs as I find it reduces cramp and I feel more supported. This might all be a placebo but I like to wear them. I think it helps.Anyway, the compression socks from Rymora are good. They’re tight and provide decent support to my calves. However, they are not as tight or give as much compression as my favourite pair from CEP. I think the cost reflects this (CEP are upwards of £30 whereas Rymora are around £10). That said, some people prefer less compression. They’re also A LOT easier to get off after the run – which with my CEP socks can be an absolute nightmare.The Rymora socks are a little long for me as well. They come just over my knees. But nothing that a bit of rolling down doesn’t solve. All in all, a very affordable option for a “milder” pair of compression socks.

Metal straw: I’m not the best at avoiding plastic, I will admit that now. I buy a lot of squash and fizzy drinks throughout the month. It’s hard to reduce something like squash that I really enjoy because asides from just having plain water, there’s not much else I can do to jazz it up that doesn’t involve plastic. Yes I could use bits of fruit but it really isn’t the same for me. I could get those little squirty things for flavour enhancing but they’re not as good either and I go through them quite quickly.

But I have bought myself a metal straw. Kyle and I go to the cinema a lot and we always buy a drink from their fountain machine thing. So we bring our straws with us. Yes this is SUCH a small thing, but it helps in a very small way. We also use them at work if we buy a Subway drink. It is a tricky thing to clean though!

I used to use straws in my morning coffee as well. I always have a coffee on the way to the gym (I make at home) and a straw helped me drink it while I was driving without having to avert my gaze from the road (I would use one straw for as long as possible FYI – I didn’t use a new one every day!). Now I use my metal straw. Though I’ve burnt my lips a few times!I know I need to get better and I annoy myself for what I’m like. I do like to think I’m good in other ways though. I don’t use baby wipes, I don’t wear make-up, I use the “hard” shampoo from Lush, I buy loose fruit and vegetables where I can and try not to buy too many fizzy drinks in small bottles. I know I have a long way to go but at least I’m conscious of my actions. I just wish society also made things easier as well. Excuses, excuses I know.

Are you doing anything to reduce the plastic you use?

Do you wear compression socks?

Have you ever received a running-related gift?

**Full disclaimer: I was sent the Rymora socks in exchange for a review. 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.

New Forest 10k

So this time last year I was running the New Forest Marathon with my friend Mike. This year I went for significantly fewer miles by doing the 10k.

I wasn’t actually planning on doing this race at all but through work I got a free place for the 10k (I work for Wiggle, the online sports retailers). I didn’t want to go for any sort of crazy PB, mainly because I hate racing 10ks and because I have a marathon a week later. It’s also not really a PB course.Sunday morning I headed to the New Forest with Kyle, my lovely supporter, to meet with Connor, another fellow Wiggler doing the 10k and his girlfriend and little girl. We didn’t get there particularly early but really didn’t need to.I knew the set-up of the race village having been there last year and knew collecting my bib in the morning wouldn’t be too hard. Everything was easy peasy and it was a nice touch to get a free water bottle, sweat wristband and the race t-shirt there and then. Though I wouldn’t be wearing it to race in. I find that quite odd when people do that… what if it chafes?
The race village is quite cool. There’s lots going on with different running-related stalls and foodie bits. I guess it makes a lot of sense considering there’s a 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon happening.I went to the loo and then Connor arrived a bit flustered having been caught up in some traffic en route. This was his first real running race and he wasn’t sure what he needed to do. He picked up his bib and then almost forgot to actually pin it on!Then Connor and I headed to the start area where we half-heartedly did some warming up.
Then it was time to head to the start-line. Connor was looking to beat his PB, which was around 55 minutes, and I said I’d try and help him. To be fair, Connor has never really run a 10k race before and could easily get under that time from the way he’s been running recently so I didn’t think this would be too much of an ask for him (hardly needs my help!).It worried me a little bit that Connor’s intention was to go all gun’s blazing right from the start (this isn’t really how I roll) but actually we took the first mile fairly conservatively. It wasn’t crazy busy but we did have to do some maneuvering around people.The course was nice and soft trail and nothing too off-roady. No mud or puddles and firm underfoot. There wasn’t a huge amount of sun either but it was still fairly humid.We chatted as we ran and I found the pace quite comfortable. I mean, we’re not talking a walk in the park here but not lungs-busting or difficult to maintain. We could carry on a conversation.I was expecting the course to be quite undulating, having done the marathon, but actually it wasn’t that bad at all. There were a couple of longer inclines and a bridge to go over but actually it was reasonably flat. The bridge bit was funny because there were signs that said “wet feet” and “dry feet” pointing the different routes… take the bridge to avoid the water basically! Everyone chose the bridge of course.Around three miles the conversation between Connor and I had quietened down and I felt him focusing on running strong and maintaining the now faster pace. Every time I overtook someone I checked behind me and Connor zoomed straight up next to me. He was doing amazingly.I like the above photo because I was just randomly taking a selfie while running and didn’t realise the woman behind waving as well. Hehe! There were signs intermittently that were quite humorous (“Smile if you’re not wearing underpants” – that kind of thing). Little things like this add to the race I think. And the scenery of course was gorgeous. No cars, no road, just forest and nature.

At a mile to go I felt I could give a good burst of speed but I felt Connor just slightly drifting behind me so I tried to maintain the speed I was at instead. It’s hard when you’re trying to pace someone. You don’t know how much to push them and how much to try and encourage them without sounding like a patronising twat or just annoying them.

There was a good amount of support around the course and the marshals were lovely and helpful. There were a lot of young volunteers as well so I made sure to thank them.The finishing straight was packed full of support and I sprinted to the end, knowing Connor wasn’t too far behind me. My time was 46:08, 7th female and 4th in my age category. Not too shabby! Connor’s time was 46:27, smashing his PB quite substantially!!

We collected our race medals, water, banana and then our race goodie bag. The goodie bag contained biscuits which I thought was a bit odd… because that’s exactly what you want after a humid race, dry biscuits.

I felt really good. The race hadn’t felt too tough and I got faster as it continued. The paces were quite zippy as well for me but I felt comfortable. Hopefully this means I’m in good standing right now in terms of fitness!I spotted the stage where the person who had warmed us up had stood and persuaded Connor to jump onto it for a quick cheeky photo. It was just too good an opportunity!Then after chatting a bit more to Connor and his girlfriend, Kyle and I headed off to find the car. Finding the car was a mission in itself to be honest. Genuinely took us like 10 minutes of pacing around a field of cars to find my car. My car (a Fiat 500) is quite small so this doesn’t help. EVENTUALLY we found it and could get moving. Thankfully, unlike the marathon last year, it was plain sailing to get out of the ‘car park’ (field).

I fully recommend these races. They’re friendly, scenic and nice and relaxed, but attract a good crowd of people to help get the buzz going. I’m pleased that I felt strong and my paces were speedy. Let’s hope this translates well for my marathon on Sunday!

Do you enjoy 10ks?

Do you prefer road races or races that are more off-road/trail?

Have you ever paced someone? It seems to be a theme for my in for the New Forest races as I paced Mike during the marathon last year too.

Brueton parkrun and so much food

Surprise surprise I was in Birmingham again this Easter weekend. Just can’t keep me away I guess…

I drove up there on Thursday after work. I had a really good dinner of chili in a tortilla bowl. If you’ve never done this, make it immediately. It’s a very tasty way of eating chili. As someone not hugely fond of rice, using a tortilla as a bowl it’s a nice way to get some carbs in (we had cauliflower rice instead, how fancy).Friday James and I went on a run together. Ooooof it was tough. I wasn’t going to be running Sunday as I was going to support James’ 10k race and so would do my long run the next day to parkrun, so it seemed like a good idea to try a little tempo run. Normally I’d have pushed it at parkrun so this was a good switch-up. James was the one suggested it – like I said, he’s good with this proper training malarkey and I probably wouldn’t have gone out and done this on my own (or at least not as fast anyway).

We headed out for a one mile warm-up and then it was pedal to the metal with three miles of tempo effort. I was really dreading this as running fast is just not my bag. We started on a nice downhill so that helped but then headed to a gentle incline. Afterwards though it was just flat. The miles sloooowly ticked by as I tried to focus on keeping my legs turning over and essentially not dying. It’s hard for me to do these sorts of efforts when I’m not in a race or parkrun, or I don’t have music so it helped James was there to push me along. Eventually I finished and had a nice gentle mile cool down. Ehhhh that was tough. It’s nice to see that my miles got quicker… and a 6:19min/mile! I do think there was a downhill that helped speed me up but still I will take that confidence booster!

Saturday was another new-to-me parkrun, Brueton parkrun. I needed to get my long run in so James planned me a route to run there (as he obviously knows the area and how to get to that parkrun) and then I’d do a few more miles afterwards to make it up to 17 miles in total. I mean I could have run all the miles I needed beforehand but I wanted a bit more sleep.

James put the route on my watch so I didn’t have to memorise anything – this was so new to me, having my watch tell me where to go! Very handy as he wasn’t going to be running with me due to his 10k the next day, but he’d meet me there and then drive me back.

But I think there was still a strong level of concern from both of us about where I’d actually end up… the Anna’isms are strong to overcome. I headed out just after 7am into the cold and wet weather. It was pretty miserable. I got my watch going and was fascinated when the little arrows appeared telling me where to turn. It was relatively straightforward but I did manage to go the wrong way WITHIN TWO MILES. I mean, come on Anna get it together. I just couldn’t see the way I was supposed to go as it looked like a dead-end. So I went back on myself and then found a route that followed the little map line as close as I could so I knew I was at least heading in the right vague direction. My watch told me I was off course but when I eventually found my way back onto the planned route it told me I was back on it, which was handy.After that there were no major issues, aside from my hands being rather cold and having to dodge out of the way of cars flying through large puddles in the road and almost splashing me. I took a quick photo on a pretty bridge crossing a canal but otherwise ploughed on to the park and found James warming up. Woohoo! Disaster averted.My legs however were feeling heavy and tired. parkrun was going to be a grind.I plodded round as best as I could and faded majorly in the middle…my legs just seemed to go “nope” before I eventually managed to claw my speed slightly back up as I could see the end was in sight.
The course was a two lapper and split nicely into a loop round the park bit and then a loop next to the pretty lake. It was a flat course and I’m sure it would have been a nice one to have tried some speed on had I felt any oomph in my legs and not run 11 miles there.My time was 24.32 but definitely felt a lot slower. Honestly it felt like a terrible run.After finishing parkrun we went for another three mile run to get my long run up to 17 miles. If I felt tired during parkrun it was nothing compared to this awful crawling grind. I just felt empty and flat. I felt bad for James as I was properly slogging along and dragging my feet.My hands were SO cold. I’d made the mistake of using my Nike gloves which are basically just material and because it had been wet they were soaked and this made my hands colder. Taking them off actually felt a lot better than leaving them on! I enjoyed a very nice hot bath (somewhat of a luxury for this shower-loving girl) when I got back which helped me warm up as I felt cold and damp to my bones.

That evening we went to the cinema and saw Ready Player One, which was so good. The music, the characters and the cool pop culture references throughout were really good. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and will check the book out now. I even managed to not buy any pick ‘n’ mix in efforts to save a bit of money and try and be a little healthier in the lead-up to all the chocolate that would inevitably happen the next day.Sunday the tables were turned as I was supporting and not running running at James’ 10k race. I wasn’t really sure how it would be on the other side but actually it was really good fun. The race was the Massey Ferguson RC Easter Tractor 10k, which was a flat three lapper. Having three laps made supporting a lot more interesting as I got to see James and the other runners three times. It was also nice not having to run a 10k race, which I personally detest and nice not running because I was injured. I’d done my running for the week so I could chill.James did amazingly, smashing his PB and getting 37:04…I mean whaaaat. Makes me feel ill it’s so fast. I did get a little annoyed at a fellow supporter who was near the finish while I was cheering. I was clapping and yelling generic supportive things, as you do, like “final push” and “keep going”, that kind of thing. He turned round to me and said “don’t say that, he was miles ahead of the person behind so just needs to cruise into the finish and not push anymore”. Erm, huh? What if he was after a certain time or wanted to smash his PB? Also, don’t tell me what I can and can’t cheer, buddy. What a knob.That afternoon saw me almost completely demolish my extra thick Daim Cadbury’s Easter egg (good god it was good). I was in a very happy place. I did have a moment of panic when I hurt my jaw though. I think I bit into the chocolate a bit too hard and something clicked making chewing really painful. I had a painkiller and it pretty much disappeared after about 10 minutes, thank god. Honestly, can you imagine that?? During Easter of all times! (Probably karma for my greediness I suppose).That evening to fully concrete my greedy person status, we went to an amazing restaurant called Hickory’s Smokehouse in Castle Bromwich. It’s a BBQ restaurant serving American-style food which just completely rocks my world.I went for the full rack of Kansas ribs while James had a BBQ platter and we both shared some chicken wings. Ahhh heavenly. I even managed to swap my fries for some frickles.Sadly though for once in my life it just got the better of me. I was UNABLE to finish the ribs. I think I’d overdone the chocolate earlier if I’m honest. My ego was very much dented and I felt like a failure 😉 After a pause of eating we did go for some pudding though as I feel like that’s an entirely different stomach.I went for the s’mores…which was a buttery biscuit base with melted chocolate and toasted marshmallows. Ahh soo good. And luckily not hugely rich or stodgy so could fit quite nicely into my already stuffed tummy. Happy days 😀

Did you eat a lot of chocolate over Easter?

Do you like to saviour your egg or eat it quickly? I wish I could but I’m far too greedy.

Have you ever run a route using your watch?

Dubai Marathon Goals

Having missed the Stubbington 10k on Sunday because I was being sensible, I decided to try running at lunchtime on Monday instead.

When I woke up Monday morning and headed to the gym (for strength-based training – not to run) the weather just looked awful. It was tipping it down. Even Alfie was not amused on his early morning walk! But I was resolute that I would run, come what may (dependent only on my calf feeling good of course).Thankfully come lunchtime my calf was feeling perfectly fine and the rain had stopped. I quickly got myself together and headed out. My plan was run the 10k distance I’d missed the day before. Not race it of course but just cover the distance. I was prepared to cut it short if necessary and had a good route for this with several points to turn back around.The run felt great. Well, my calf and other body parts felt great. My fitness…ehhhh. That said, I was running around 8 minute miles and my shiny new watch (well, “new” since Christmas) was telling me that according to my heart rate (around 140 bpm) I was running at an “easy pace”. I mean, it didn’t feel tough and I wasn’t out of breath – I could have chatted to my imaginary friend if I’d have fancied 😉 I guess I was just aware of how far a mile is… and how far a mile followed by 25.2 more would be. I’ve only run 10.6 miles since the Portsmouth Marathon so we’re talking three weeks of no long runs.

Without sounding arrogant or complacent though, I’ve run enough marathons now to know I can complete one (providing I don’t have a show-stopping injury or problem during the race). I’m not worried I won’t be able to finish and I’m certainly not questioning whether or not to do it. I’m going to Dubai for goodness sake – even if it takes me six hours, I’m doing the marathon!

It’s kind of like knowing that your car can get you to a far away destination. It might not be the smoothest drive, the weather might suck, the roads might be tough, the car might not be a race car but instead a little Fiat 500, but you know the engine can cope as long as it’s got the fuel. You can never guarantee, of course, that something won’t happen along the way outside of your control but in theory the car should be OK to complete the journey.

Knowing I can complete the distance isn’t my worry. It’s how tough it’ll feel and how bad my legs will feel after the marathon. The worse the training the worse the recovery. I’m not so stupid to assume that because I’ve run 12 marathons before will mean it’ll be a doddle. A marathon is NEVER easy. It’s a physical and mental battle however many you’ve run before. It’s not a walk in the park or indeed a parkrun. Those miles can tear you apart and laugh in your face. Hours of running. HOURS of mental and physical grit required.

Initially my goal was to be somewhere near my 3:24:06 PB but that realistically is not going to happen. I’d need to set out with that intention to hit that time and I’m not going to (I’m not sandbagging here I assure you). To be thoroughly boring and same old same old I’m going to hope to get around 3:45, anything under that would be marvelous. I’d absolutely love to get sub 3:30 but again realistically this is going to be a tough ask fitness-wise and I don’t really want to cause any further issues for my calf now that it’s on it’s way back to normal. The closer to 4 hours I get the bigger the issues I’ve had, I imagine, but we’ll see. Heat and humidity could play a factor here. It should be around 25 degrees during the day but the marathon starts 6am so it should be 10-15 degrees hopefully for a big portion. The course is entirely flat with few major turns (joy of joy, I can almost feel my mind melting in boredom). So it’s anyone’s guess really. I’ll decide how I feel closer to the time.

Happily the marathon is on the last day of the holiday so I can enjoy Dubai without issue beforehand. Oh sure I probably need to be a bit careful what I eat the day before and get a good night’s sleep but I can’t see this being an issue. I suppose ideally having the marathon at the beginning would be best but actually I’m happy with how it’s planned. After the marathon all I need to do is eat (which I’m pretty good at) and then later get on a plane to go home. It’ll probably be a super uncomfortable journey home but least I can just chill to some degree.

**Just going to add the necessary disclaimer right here: I’m fully aware I’m probably jinxing things here by saying all the above. Famous last words and all that…Fingers crossed it does turn out OK.***

Excitingly before I head to sunny Dubai, this weekend I’m heading to sunny Birmingham to meet up with some running buddies. Also, now brace yourself as this is super exciting, I’ll be getting another letter for my parkrun Alphabet Challenge! (Yes OK it’s not that exciting, but it is to me). I’ll be doing Kingsbury parkrun, whoop whoop! Following this I’ll be going to The National Running Show. I’m only staying for the Saturday but I’m quite excited. I’ve never been to one before. I’m imagining it to be a big running expo type thing. Exciting stuff.

Have you ever been to The National Running Show?

Are you confident with your running ability when it comes to races?

If you could be any car, what would you be? I’ll stick with my Fiat 500, cute and dinky 😉