Reading Half training day and lots of cake

This weekend was quite busy with me being in both Reading and then Brighton. I was in Reading for the Reading Half Marathon Training Session.

I’ve never done an event like this so I was quite excited about what it would entail, even if it did mean missing my usual parkrun 😉 It was nice to mix things up a bit. On Saturday morning I had a quick breakfast and got myself going at 8.30am. Surprisingly for me I arrived bang on time  for 9.30am – in fact, earlier than other people! Normally I’m late!IMG_2597I finally got to meet the lovely Tess (who writes the great blog The Fitbits) who I know through social media. She’s just as lovely in person as she is online – and, I hope she doesn’t mind me saying this, she is TINY but full of energy!

The session involved lots of different bits. We got to meet the Reading Half Marathon Run Director, Judith Manson, who was lovely and friendly and got us all excited about the upcoming event (18th March – there are still places available FYI, as well as a competition to win a place HERE).

Then we had a workout with the Townsend Twins, Francesca and Chloe, who will be doing the warm-up before the half marathon on the day. IMG_2568They took us through a solid body-weight workout involving squats, single leg deadlifts and lunges etc. followed by a core-focused workout. They gave us options to make it easier or harder which was nice as there was a variety of skill level within the room. They had a great energy and kept us going.D7B7CB84-E4D8-4528-92E8-FCAB2829CE66Then Ali Galbraith took us through a discussion on pacing.IMG_2574He gave us some good tips on how to pace our ideal race. Some of his points included:

  • Having a good knowledge of the course so you would know when the tricky sections were like any hills so you wouldn’t panic when your pace decreased and where you could pick it up later.
  • Not going off too fast at the start (such an underrated tip – this is my biggest tip to anyone when doing a half or a full marathon. It is SO easy to get over-excited at the beginning and then burn out).
  • Practising your goal pace during your training.

And other top tips. Most of it was familiar to me but the tip that stood out was having a good knowledge of the course.D0B739E2-1DE7-4711-A245-3FE21DF0E41CFor some strange reason I don’t like to look at course maps too much because it’s almost like I don’t want to ruing the surprise for myself… which is ridiculous. Too often I have very little awareness of what’s coming up in the race. So I took this point away with me to change.IMG_2606Then we headed out for a 5k run. What I really liked about this (and the workout before) was that the warm-ups weren’t the old school static stretches. It was all dynamic movements to get the muscles warmed up, things like leg swings, squats and lunges. Far, far better! There’s no point stretching cold muscles.IMG_2593The run itself was good. We split off into groups due to everyone differing in paces. The group I was in had a pace of 8.30-9 minutes per mile which was led by Ali. The run was around the local area and took in the first mile of the Reading Half Marathon, so we could get a feel of what race day would be like (though I have run Reading twice before, but not the new course).IMG_2596Then we headed around the Madejski Stadium before heading back. It was a lovely crisp cold morning which we all agreed would be perfect weather for the race day. My calf felt a little uncomfortable but nothing major.Reading runThen we all met up back at the conference centre the event was held in and had our final session which was with Jim from the Berkshire Physio. They would be at the Half Marathon too – so if you need any advice or post-race massage, they’re your guys!IMG_2599Jim was super knowledgeable and pretty much everything he said he backed up with research. He talked about RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) as a treatment for an injury and also gave us some great stretches and strength exercises to keep us injury-free. One of the best exercises he gave us was called the “slump” and involved “neural flossing” of the Sciatic nerve. Instead of stretching your hamstrings with the standard static stretch, he recommended this exercise. Basically you sit on a table and slump your back to relax your spin with your chin to your chest, then you straight one leg and then bring it back down again. You continue to do this, and should feel things loosen from your leg to your back if you’re really tight. Apparently this is “flossing” your Sciatic nerve and helping to reduce tension and tightness. Obviously my explanation is a bit pants, so I recommend you google it if you’re interestedIMG_2570The event was well run and a good session. It was nice to meet fellow runners and to chat about training and things like that. I met the lovely Tamsyn from the blog Fat Girl to Ironman and Katie and Kate from the blog These Girls Do. So a fantastic bunch! I’m really looking forward to the Reading Half now 🙂

Then I hopped back in the car around 1.30pm and headed to Brighton. I hadn’t really planned lunch and didn’t really want to stop for anything proper as I just wanted to get there so I pushed on through. I did however eat four apples to keep me going. I’m not AnnaTheApple for no reason 😉

I got to Brighton and met up with my lovely friend, Charlotte. I was staying over for the night ready for a baby shower celebration the next day with my uni friends. I managed to persuade her into ordering an early dinner from Deliveroo as I was past the point of hunger and dangerously close to hanger. We ordered from a Turkish place called Almoosh Snack which we did the last time I stayed. I went for the mixed grill (which was HUGE but absolutely perfect for my hunger levels) and Charlotte ordered a large halloumi wrap and tabbouleh salad.IMG_2602My mixed grill was as I remembered it (lots of chicken wings, lamb mince koftas etc. on a bed of rice) but Charlotte’s was literally just slices of fried halloumi and her salad. It was definitely not a large wrap – and certainly missing the garlic sauce and pickles described on the menu! I rang up to complain and the man did apologise and said Deliveroo must have given us the starter version. He didn’t really offer a solution though… I’m still going to look into this further as it was a disappointing. Charlotte had to add a bagel to make it into an actual meal. Hmmm. Despite this, we had a lovely evening watching Hidden Figures (so good) and lots of First Dates (such addictive trashy TV).IMG_2609The next day I had a fabulous lie-in and then headed out into the bitter cold for a 4 mile run. I had intended on going a bit further (maybe 6 miles) but the calf was just not happy. I’d warmed it up and done some exercises before going out but it was no Bueno. It just felt so uncomfortable every time my foot hit the ground. IMG_2608The run location was lovely – the weather cold and windy but bright and the promenade was just full of fellow runners and a beautiful view of the sea. But I headed back and called it a day. 4 milesAfterwards there was a dull but non-specific ache in the calf. Hummm. Yeah I probably shouldn’t have run after running the day before. I never learn.

Our other friends soon arrived and we all headed to Metrodeco, a very quirky and friendly café in Brighton, for afternoon tea. We didn’t do any crazy crazy baby shower games but we did have a fun game where we couldn’t say “baby” and had pins that we’d try to win off of people when we noticed someone saying it. Very good fun! And probably safe to say I lost…IMG_2623The afternoon tea was amazing. There were open sandwiches of ham, salmon, creme cheese and brie. A large scotch egg sliced up, two mini fruit scones, a chocolate brownie, a mini red velvet cupcake and a selection of fruit tarts.IMG_2625We also had unlimited tea from a very large selection. I chose the Puer Tea, simply because I’d heard Victoria Beckham drank it because it was healthy (haha I’m ridiculous I know) but actually it was delicious and complimented all the sweet foods perfectly. It was like a refreshing and gentle black tea. We could change our teas whenever we fancied but I stuck with that one.IMG_2626The whole afternoon tea was so good! We could ask for more creme (clotted of course) and jam and the service was just super friendly and helpful. And, as usual, I played the human dustbin and helped where people needed it 😉 It’s become worryingly easy how my stomach can put this stuff away!

Then we played some more games (quizzes, no horrible baby shower games involving nappies!), the mother-to-be opened presents and then we headed off home. A lovely weekend with lovely people 🙂

Have you ever tried Puer tea?

Do you enjoy the games usually played at baby showers?

Are you running any half marathons this year?

The Great South Run 2017

I hadn’t planned on running the Great South Run (GSR) as I hadn’t entered. It’s another race I had bad feelings about.

I ran it in 2013 and aimed for a really ridiculous target time which set me up for high pressure and ultimately inevitable failure. I also became injured afterwards and subsequently didn’t run the first marathon I’d set my sights on (Portsmouth Coastal, which to do this day I’ve still not done). So, bad joujou.

The GSR is an expensive race (over £40) and it’s always very busy and very windy, being right along the coastal front of Portsmouth. So I didn’t sign up… but the week before I saw how many of my club and people I knew who were and I started to get that classic ‘fear of missing out’ feeling. The thought of running 10 miles on my own on Sunday sounded really unappealing. Since the marathon I’ve been a bit “meh” about long running because I don’t have any set training plan yet. Not an issue in itself but I kind of wanted to keep my long runs around 8-10 miles so I didn’t have to build back up in November (and I have a half mid-November).

So when a place became available by a lady in my running club who’d double-booked herself, I was there like a shot. I fancied a pressure-free, good atmosphere run with thousands of people to get the mojo going again – and nicely hit 10 miles again (and maybe get rid of the bad joujou). The GSR doesn’t allow bib transfers or deferrals (which, for the cost of the race, I think is very cheeky) so I would need to run as “Sarah”. It didn’t bother me as it wasn’t a goal race.

I asked my parents if they fancied supporting but my dad sadly was busy with work but my mum was up for it. My dad likes to pull my mum’s leg by saying he’s the better parent because he supports most of my races whereas she stays behind (her excuse always being to look after the dogs… sure, sure) so she was quite chuffed to have one over my dad on this occasion. I was just chuffed to have an adult supervise me.

As the GSR is over in Portsmouth, which is just up the road from us (but far enough away for us to be safe… ;-)), I didn’t think we needed to leave crazy early and I was rather relaxed about the whole race morning. My mum suggested that our 9am leaving time for my 10.38am start might be somewhat pushing it but I hand-waved her away saying as long as we got to Gunwharf Quays (where we’d be parking) by 9.30am we’d have loads of time to walk the 3 miles to the start. I’m sure long-term readers and anyone who knows me can see the problem already. Logistics and timings left in my incapable hands would only lead to disaster.My alarm was set for 8.20am… kit on (sadly not my usual HERC running vest due to my vest having “Anna” on the front which would look strange next to the bib with “Sarah” printed on), no breakfast, just a coffee and I was good to go. Well it didn’t take long at all to get into Portsmouth. Unfortunately that’s where we stopped… the traffic was horrendous. We crawled along and 9.30am came and went. I tried not to panic, because really there was nothing that could be done. It’s not like I could have jumped out of the car as we were still on the motorway. We saw the park and ride was completely chocka block and continued with our Gunwharf Quays plans. Only to find that road closed. In the end we parked in the Cascades car park – which, despite still being a good 3 miles away, was actually perfect. They opened the shopping mall just as we arrived and I dashed inside to use a PROPER loo. How fabulous.Then it was a quick march to the start. It was cold and windy and my mum, bless her, struggled to keep the pace. We spotted the lovely Rebecca ready to marshal and she gasped when I told her my wave. TRYING NOT TO PANIC. As we got about a mile away my mum said she just couldn’t continue at that pace and I should go on. What my mum really needed was a hot drink (she was, as she describes, “feeling woo”). I 100% didn’t want to de-layer at this point but felt terrible to force her on so reluctantly handed her my coat and bag that she was kindly going to look after. She knew my wave and vague timings. I told her to go and sit in a coffee shop and I’d see her around 12.Actually it was probably a good thing I headed off on my own because I was able to run to the start (I would have been far too cold to have walked). I got there at 10.35am and looked around for my wave. I had a little peep at the elite wave (tried to spot my super speedy blondie-making friend Michelle) and then walked down to my wave. I couldn’t see it but could see the orange wave who looked like they were about to get going. Well I was all warmed up and the thought of standing around and getting cold again sounded awful, plus this would mean I’d finish a bit earlier for my mum.

So within five minutes I was starting! This was somewhat stressful as I tried to get my headphones working, only to realise I hadn’t paired them with my old phone that I was using. So I now had a pair of useless headphones I had to wear for the entire race…wonderful. That said though I actually didn’t need them. The atmosphere of the race was enough and I found whenever I passed by any supporters playing music it boosted me up and really motivated me.The first few miles were crowded with people, as is always the case. The wind was gusty and blustering around us but generally OK. At this point you’re feeling fresh anyway so the wind isn’t an issue. My pace for the first mile was just under 8  minutes as I was weaving in and out of people. The crowds were fantastic, cheering us along, and I felt very relaxed.

As you head into Old Portsmouth you hit mile two and run through the Historic Dockyard. This is always a fun bit (a brief bit of cobbles, but over very quickly) as you get to see the HMS Victory and the Mary Rose museum (so many trips their as a child…). I chuckled at some of the Navy statues that were dressed up for Halloween.My pace increased and I continued to overtake people. There’s an out and back section mile 4-5 and I enjoyed spotted people I knew and shouting to them. As I wasn’t wearing my traditional HERC vest I wasn’t easy to spot so was able to creep up (well, run up) next to fellow Hedgies and say hi.

There were lots of water stations around the course and they had small bottles, which I always prefer as you can take them along with you for a bit, but one blew across the road and I turned my ankle on it which was quite painful and concerning. Luckily though after the initial turn it was fine, whew!! Apparently my ankles aren’t injury prone like the rest of me.

The GSR is very flat – barely any elevation changes – but it does change direction a few times and this can mean you’re suddenly battling the wind, or the wind is nicely pushing you along. There are so many crowds cheering you all along the course which helps buoy you along too. I spent a lot of time looking out for my mum wondering if she found a spot to stand, but I didn’t see her. I spotted a few people from work which was cool though.

I was feeling fantastic, despite my pace seeming ridiculous to me. I’m sure the wind definitely helped at points! I ran past Rebecca at her marshaling point around mile 5 but she didn’t notice me. I ended up hollering to her and her friend nudged her to spot me which made me laugh.

As I got to mile 6 the wind was really on our backs now and it felt fantastic, albeit annoying with my pony tail and flyaway hair bits getting in my face (I was happy to accept this tho with the benefits of the wind pushing us). Amazingly I saw my friend Sarah (not the Sarah I was running as) from my club around the same mile where I saw her the last time I ran. I was having a very bad time then and ran with her the rest of the way. This time I said a quick hello and carried on. She was listening to music and seemed very focused.

By mile 7 I felt my first “dig deep” moment where I would have quite liked to have had some music to keep me motivated. Instead I had a mash-up of Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic and Daft Punk Harder better Faster Stronger spinning round my head randomly. Miles 7-8 are away from the seafront and are a bit of a lull moment. I was also well aware that at mile 8 we’d be turning onto the seafront and heading straight at the wind with no shelter. It would be tough. Someone from the crowd shouted it was almost time for the final sprint and a few people chuckled wryly; two miles is not time to sprint! A lady next to me muttered that it was the worst two miles as well. Yep!

As we turned the corner the wind did indeed push against us, but surprisingly not as bad as I remembered. It was hard, yes, but not horrific. I played the game of chasing bibs ahead of me and slowly reeled people in. I saw my pace was sub seven minute miles and had no idea how I was doing it, or if I could maintain it. But I kept going.

A novelty about a 10 mile race is you are running to the mile, not the 0.2 or the 0.1 like in most other races. There was no great ambiguity of how far you’d have left to run like there sometimes is in the other distances. Just get to that beep on the Garmin! I knew I’d added a bit more mileage due to all my weaving but not a huge amount. I could see the finish ahead and I sprinted to it, giving it my all.I checked my time, 1:13:23! I couldn’t remember exactly what my PB was as I hadn’t checked beforehand (I didn’t think I was aiming for it as I’d had a rough goal of sub 1:18). I was pretty sure it was 1:15 something though so was fairly certain I had it in the bag. Either way I was OVER THE MOON. Such a comfortable race (not easy, but not a lung-busting omg I’m going to be sick feeling – comfortably in control of a good effort feeling), with no music and just a general sense of happiness all the way round. No niggles. No issues. Just a fantastic race. On a quick check of my blog (so handy to have my PBs stored there) I found I had indeed got a PB of 1min 50 seconds. Not too shabby! And FINALLY a decent 10 mile race. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a good one before.
I saw some of my club volunteering and had a quick natter and a hug before heading over to pick up my medal and goodie bag. I was really pleased to see that there was a technical t-shirt in the bag as well – it always used to be a cotton t-shirt! Though it’s still rather large despite being a small.I saw some of my club who’d run and we chatted away – all seeming to have had a good run. A few selfies and I rang my mum to find out where she was. Apparently she’d seen me around mile 5 which was nice.After meeting up we started the long 3 mile walk back to the car. I was glad to put my jacket back on, but with my medal prominently out of course.We stopped in Starbucks on our meanders back, now that my hunger was kicking in (I did’t fancy the giant protein bar in the goodie bag. Almost 300 calories! That’s a meal). A hot coffee though would tide me over. I would be back-loading my calories in a big way, so don’t worry I wasn’t going to go hungry all day!

We made it home substantially quicker than it took to get there and I wolfed down a solid lunch before showering and getting ready for my friend Sarah’s (ANOTHER Sarah would you believe!) baby shower. It took place in the very lovely Tea Room in Lee-On-Solent (of which I’ve been to many, many times).Sarah had no idea so when she walked in with her husband, Ant (who, by the way has recently stepped over from a non-running friend to a running friend), and she was so surprised. We’d hired out the entire place so it was a really lovely afternoon. I’m not really one for baby-related stuff but it was great. Lots of fun games and laughter.

The waitresses then brought round afternoon teas for everyone. I immediately bagged myself a fruit scone and a slice of red velvet (you gotta be in it to win it when it comes to food…). I humoured myself by having a couple of token chicken sandwiches before slathering the delicious scone with jam (first of course) and then clotted cream. OH SO DIVINE.There were boxes provided to take cake home but this was highly unnecessary for me. In for a penny, in for a pound and all that. I was apparently the only person to do the full afternoon hog of sandwiches, scone and full slice of cake. I’m not even sorry. I even had a little bit of the chocolate cake that someone had sliced in half (sliced in half? I don’t understand this). I know, I know. I’m far too greedy for my own good. The sugar coma I fell promptly into was fully deserved. But I tell you what, it was worth it.Can you manage a whole afternoon tea?

Have you ever done one of the Great Run series before?

Do you like a 10 mile race? 

You can never have too much cake

This weekend past was pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. It was a great balance of being ridiculously busy and then nice and chilled.

Friday night was a casual Christmas drinks evening with some running club friends at the pub. Annoyingly this pub was walking distance from my new home but I had to house(dog)-sit for my parents while they were in London over the weekend, which meant I had to drive instead. Anyway it was a great evening with most people wearing Christmas jumpers and just having a nice natter.

Christmas jumper

There was even a Michael Jackson tribute singer so a few of us had a boogie. Don’t blame it on the sunshine…

The next morning, as usual, was parkrun at Netley Abbey. The weather was ridiculously mild, albeit a bit windy. We decided to get a photo of our usual set-up crew which was lovely. A few us had our parkrun Volunteer 25 t-shirts on as well which worked out nicely.Netley Abbey parkrun volunteers

I love setting up parkrun with these guys. They’re all just so lovely and we have a good laugh. They were all really supportive when I had my rough times earlier in the year as well. There’s something about running that just brings people together in a good way.

There were loads of guys from the running club running as well because it was our club’s Secret Santa. It was great to see so many familiar faces. At the start I was quite concerned that I was stood next to my super speedy friend, Michelle, but she assured me she was taking it easy having run eight miles already. I think I stayed with her for all of about 100m before she was like a blip in the horizon! Even my friend Chris who I used to be faster than pre-injury zoomed away despite being hungover having not left the pub last night until 1am. My ego got a bit of a kicking 😉

Even splits

However I was really chuffed with some very even splits. I got 22:59 which I’m over the moon with. I really kept my mind focused on the effort. It’s funny because I’ve stopped listening to music at parkrun now. I’ve found it distracts me and makes me feel claustrophobic. I think if I was really pushing for a specific time I might wear some motivating music, but at the moment I’m enjoying ‘naked’ runs. I’ve taken a minute off my faster time from a few weeks ago. This is definitely progress!

I did do some investigation on Strava to see what my fastest time on this course was and found it’s 21:57 in March this year. Jeeze that’s a challenge! Maybe in a few months…

Secret Santa was good fun as well. We all crammed into the café and exchanged gifts.Secret Santa

Thanks again to my official blog photographer, Mark, for the photo 😉

My label said Anna Jayne Smith (*sighs*) so the person didn’t know me that well but they knew me well enough to get me very posh Strawberry and white chocolate cake and a Christmas pudding shaped chocolate slab. Very pleased!!

Afterwards my sister, her fiancée and Meg and Ellie, her two daughters, met up with me so Ellie could run a children’s fun run which was happening in the park at 10.30am. It was a charity race for Ben’s Heroes and entry was £3. Such a good cause. Ellie is almost six years old and has been doing Junior parkrun quite a bit lately with her dad. I’d love to do it with her but it’s a fair distance away from me and I haven’t been able to get there so I was really excited that I was finally able to see her (and join her!) running.

My heart melted when Ellie said she wanted to be a runner like me and run marathons. I’m beyond proud. Obviously this might be a passing trend but for now I’m over the moon she’s so into it. For Christmas I’ve got her some really funky purple Nike leggings.IMG_6852

I’m jealous! I want a pair! But they are TINY.

Back to the race, Ellie was really excited and kept sprinting off and showing me how fast she could run, bless her.Children's raceIt was two laps of the cricket pitch (our usual fast summer course) and the race organiser said the kids could run one or two laps depending how they felt (there were some quite young children). She held my hand and chatted the entire way round. She even told me that running was good because it made you “live longer”. I’m not sure Ellie should be worried about her mortality at this point in her life but it made me chuffed that she associated running with being healthy. I was careful not to run too fast and kept to her speed andsaid we could walk if she needed to, but she was adamant to keep going. In the end we did the two laps (her choice) and she did an amazing sprint finish at the end.IMG_6850

She got a little goodie bag and a lovely medal. She was really pleased with herself and looked like she had so much fun. I was also so proud of her when she offered her goodie bag to a little boy who didn’t get one because they ran out.

The rest of the day was a mad rush of getting myself sorted, checking on my parent’s dogs and then getting back to my flat to have a catch up with my friend Louise and her husband Tom. We’d arranged a kind of afternoon tea gathering as I said I had a panettone I was reviewing for the blog that would be great to share with them and Lou said she might bake something.

Well, they turned up with some very nice artisan bread, loads of different filling choices for sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, jam and a huge freshly baked carrot cake! Afternoon tea indeed!
Home-made afternoon tea

I had a delicious brie sandwich with onion marmalade, a pallet-cleansing slice of panettone 😉 following by a clotted cream and jam scone and then finished nicely with a slice of carrot cake. All washed down with tea obviously. They brought their little one, Jake, over and we had a lovely time stuffing our faces and chatting away. I’ll do a full review of the panettone in another post but honestly we were all pleasantly surprised at how tasty it was. It was the perfect level of sweetness for such a sugar-frenzied afternoon.

I then had to rush to an opticians appointment and then rush to my friend Mike’s surprise 40th birthday party (honestly, there was not one single thing I was on time for the entire day). I took with me some sticky garlic and honey chicken wings and breaded paprika chicken tenders that I’d rustled up earlier. Mike was really surprised when he got home and saw us all there after being told he wasn’t allowed in the house until 5.30pm. It was lovely to see how chuffed he was (I might be over-using the word “chuffed”…).40th birthday party food

Sheryl’s photo of her amazing cake and my own poor quality photos below (chicken wings bottom right)

Now you might think that considering all the food I ate earlier would hinder my process in making a dent in all of the buffet food on offer here. You would be wrong. My capacity to eat a lot of food still astounds me. Sheryl made this amazing cake and she let me have a taster piece before she sent out slices to everyone – you know, just to make sure it was tip top quality 😉 I then proceeded to have another slice afterwards. As if I hadn’t already eaten enough cake for one day…40th birthday party

The birthday boy (Photo credit to Sheryl)

It was a lovely evening. Towards the end after some people had left, there were just a few of us and we just sat around chatting about all things running and funny stories. Such a great party!

That night I woke up in the middle of the night not feeling well at all. That’ll teach me. I never learn though. I regret nothing! If you can’t enjoy good food with good friends then something is very wrong.

I was going to recap Sunday but this is far too long now!

Have you ever been to a surprise birthday party?

Are you good at being on time? I am awful. I never leave enough time or contingency time when things invariably go wrong.

Have you ever run with a small person?

Back in the game

Morning, morning. I am pleased to say that I am back in the marathon running game!

OK to be fair (and I imagine you’re used to this now if you’re a long-time reader) I was probably being my usual paranoid runner self about my shin…which actually worked in my favour as I was very cautious and didn’t do my 16 miler long run, nor my Tuesday run. So by Thursday my shin had calmed down hugely and felt absolutely fine. I think the moral of the story for me is not to go crazy with calf raises and tighten up my calf. Oh, and rest is best!

This meant I could join in with a club-organised long run at the weekend, happy days! A few of us decided to make things interesting by doing 17 miles and then doing a parkrun to top it up to 20 miles. The appeal was a faster finish long run, a nice way to break up an otherwise laborious load of miles and also to get in some parkrun tourism. Most of us had never been to Winchester parkrun (which is about 30 minutes away) so it was quite nice to do something different.

The downside, however, was realising that to get the miles in before parkrun meant a very early start. 5.15am alarm for Saturday morning… ooof. This meant Friday night was technically a school night with sensible food and an early night. I made sure to lay my things out the night before ready to make it easy in the morning.

IMG_3910 Decided to wear my Steve Way “Don’t Be Sh*T” top to get me in the zone 😉

I slept so badly as I kept panicking about my alarm and just generally feeling nervous about the run. I woke up at 4.30am and was pleased that I had another 45 minutes to sleep. But then a while later I jolted awake thinking I’d missed my alarm. Well, my alarm was going off all right but it was on silent!! I was so lucky that it was only 5.20am. All thoughts of how tired I felt were gone as I leapt out of bed and got ready in a panic thinking I’d be late.Early morning long run I ate a Trek (Original Oat) protein bar as I walked Alfiea fter I got dressed. Probably not a great idea as it was so crumbly and it was so dark outside I was getting it everywhere. I had the world’s smallest coffee and was good to go! Despite my late getting up, I arrived at the local train station before everyone else. The plan was to leave our cars there, run to Winchester, eat something, then get the train back to our cars.

IMG_3921 The beginning crew ready to run

We were going to meet another friend, Matt, half way there as he thought it best to not run the entire 20 miles as he was recovering from the dreaded plantar fasciitis, and then we’d meet another friend, Kate, at the parkrun as she was running a half marathon the next day.Long run scenery The route was lovely! All along Itchen River and a fair bit off the main road – which is such a relief when running so many miles. Though it did rain on and off, it was a lovely temperature. I really enjoyed chatting away to the guys as we ran – the time flew by. I do like doing long runs on my own when I zone out and listen to podcasts, but there is something truly enjoyable about running with others, especially for such a long way. Long runs can get very lonely.Long run 2 We made it to Winchester parkrun with about five minutes to spare which was cutting it close. I didn’t want to have to run again after the parkrun and was about 0.5 away from 17 miles so did a lap around the course just before we started. This helped minimise the break between the two runs as well.

Winchester parkrun is very flat and is basically three laps around a field – though apparently we did a slight variation of the usual course doing a weird diagonal run across a field. My first mile was a bit panicked and rushed because after they finished the briefing I thought we’d be starting somewhere else but the guy just said “get ready, go!” and I realised I was quite far at the back and had to do a lot of over-taking and dodging around people. I did have a chuckle though when I saw a man who was running with a dog get yanked back as the dog decided to do his business there and then come what may. The guy had to stop and pick up the poo…a parkrun poo, tee hee.

The second lap was tough. My legs felt very heavy and it just felt hard. My pace dropped and I felt myself flagging. The third mile was easier because I knew it was the last, but my legs (understandably) still felt tired. I got 23:29 which I was over the moon with though. But it did make me think long and hard about what I could achieve at Bournemouth. I just don’t feel mentally ready to push the pace at that marathon and I don’t think my training as been as good as Liverpool had been. I also don’t feel the hunger to get a faster time like I did with Liverpool and I really don’t want to put pressure on myself and potentially have a horrible experience.IMG_3931

We all agreed that it was a tough parkrun because of the miles beforehand but were really proud of ourselves. And though Kate didn’t run the 20 miles, she still smashed out a great parkrun and got first lady! So we all felt pretty chuffed.

(Ave. pace 8:37min/miles)

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Then it was off to Whetherspoons for breakfast. We all sort of stumbled there slowly and collapsed at a table. Most of us had a fry-up. Fry-up post long runI went for the large fry-up but subbed my hash browns for more bacon (a superior swap I think).

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It was delicious! I also ordered a diet coke, a glass of water and a coffee. Hitting all bases.

We got a lift back with Kate which was great as well. I’m so pleased how well the run went. It was definitely the confident boost I needed for the marathon. Though I ran Cheddar Gorge marathon recently, it was still a good few weeks past now and having missed last week’s long run I was feeling a little worried. But during the 20 miles I felt strong and like I could have gone on and on. The pace was slower than my usual long run which is probably a good thing as 20 miles at my usual pace would probably make the next few weeks hard in terms of recovering and being fresh. Though I’m happy I got to pick the pace up at the end to push through.

After getting back I had this mad surge of energy. Instead of usually feeling exhausted I was on fire with housework, walking Alfie and getting stuff done. Though I didn’t feel hungry again until 4pm! (To be fair, that breakfast was HUGE so I’m not surprised).

The next day I decided to have a rest day. My legs felt good, no niggles or twinges, but I felt a general sense of tiredness. Remembering how injury-prone I am and that I’m not the fastest at recovering, I thought it best to forgo any exercise other than some lovely long walks with Alfie. <– Can we just marvel out how sensible that sentence is for me. I’ve come a long way!

Later on I saw Ben’s mum again this weekend for afternoon tea. We were meant to do afternoon tea last weekend but we left it too late so we decided to try again. We headed to a place I’ve been before but not for a while, Lilly’s in Wickham.

Lilly's WickhamWe both went for a slice of red velvet cake, a fruit scone with jam and cream and I had ham and onion marmalade sandwiches.

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It was divine. Though I do prefer to have crusts on my sandwiches they were very dainty!

So all in all, a pretty good weekend. Cake and running – things are back to my kind of normal 😉 And now time to taper!

How was your weekend?

What’s your ideal long run? A training run at a race, running solo, running with others?

Crust or no crusts on your sandwiches?

Romsey 5 Mile Beer Race

This weekend was pretty awesome! (<—I really hope I can be saying a similar sentence next week after my marathon…).

My university friends came down to see me on Saturday for my birthday, which is on the 19th. One of them popped down on the Friday night because she was coming straight from work in London (that crazy girl commutes from London to Brighton in the week…that’s a lot of trains!) I picked her up from the station and we indulged in a lovely evening of Indian take-away and the film Pride. I heartily recommend Pride. It’s such a good film with some truly lovely moving moments and is very funny.

In an awkward state of events I needed to do my last long run on the Saturday morning rather than the Sunday as I had the Romsey 5 Mile Beer Race (more on that later). So I planned on driving to parkrun early and doing seven miles beforehand, doing parkrun and then zooming back home. The other girls were arriving around 10.30am which gave me just enough time. They all know how running mad I am so it was fine thankfully.

The pre-run felt alright but wasn’t amazing. I felt a bit “bleurgh” and *wshipers* my shin that I had issues with last year has ever so slightly started niggling a tiny bit during my runs that week. It would be ironic that an injury springs up literally the week before my marathon. BUT like I said, it was ever so slight and more of a tightness than anything. I was only worried because I was scared it was going to develop into something further. To be honest, it’s highly likely that the previous high mileage weeks I’ve done made it grumble and the fact that my shoes are getting older. So I swapped them for my new ones (exact same version) and foam rolled and stretched a lot.

Anyway I got to parkrun in good time and continued a similar pace, enjoying running with people and the lovely sunshine.Netley parkrun June

Photo credit: Kookie51

I literally had to grab a token, get it scanned and race back to the car and head home straight away.

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Photo credit: Kookie51

I felt bad for leaving my friend at my house, but we’re very close and she knew to make herself at home.

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I got showered, dressed and breakfasted all in time for the other two friends to arrive. It’s always nice seeing them as we just slot back into place like old times and have a good old giggle. They bought me some lovely birthday presents. One of my friends works at Superdry (as part of the audit/accounting bit…or something) and gets 50% off clothes or 70% off in the sample shop!! I got a very nice gilet (<— not an affiliated link!) and T-shirt. SOO chuffed as usually I avoid Superdry as it’s ridiculously expensive.

We decided to have afternoon tea for lunch. We did try my favourite tearoom, Elsie’s, but it was rammed so we went to my second favourite in Lee-On-Solent, The Tea Rooms.

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It was delicious. I got roast chicken sandwiches, a fruit scone and a slice of red velvet cake. It does make me slightly concerned that I have absolutely no problem polishing off my afternoon tea while the other girls seemed to struggle…I guess my sweet tolerance has also enjoyed marathon training!

Later we enjoyed a nice walk through Manor Farm with Alfie.IMG_1340

It was a lovely, lovely day. And then we said farewell and I thoroughly depressed myself by watching The Lovely Bones. A good but morbid watch (the book is better though).

The next morning was time for one of my favourite local races of the year, the Romsey 5 Mile Beer Race. I’ve done this race twice before and I love it. The course is undulating and tough but it’s a pleasant route through country roads and the Romsey Road Runners, who organise the race, are so friendly and supportive. It’s always a good day. And you get a free beer and slice of cake afterwards. So yeah it’s pretty good!

My parents came to pick me up and my mum said why didn’t we take Alfie too as they could look after him and it was so sunny and lovely. What a great idea as otherwise Alfie would be home alone for the morning and it was lovely having his furriness there with us.IMG_1346

We arrived in good time and saw lots of people from my running club. The running club was fairly split that day as there was a popular 10k (flat and fast) going on as well somewhere else. I love the beer race even if the course is hard work and would much prefer to do that race than the flatter 10k which, let’s be honest, had no cake offering. Plus the pressures of a flat 10k are just not what I want right now before my marathon!

IMG_1361 (Photo credit to Sheryl James)

I honestly had no idea what to do for this race. It’s a week before my marathon but it’s only five miles. My shin felt pretty alright after my foam rolling so I wasn’t too worried about that (but obviously I did worry because hi I’m Anna and always injured). The last time I did this race I wasn’t in great shape and was coming back from a hip niggle, and the time before that I did really well as I was right in a good phase of fast running and PB’ing.

I also knew if I did push it there could be a chance to place well. Previously I’ve achieved second and third place, respectively, out of the females. I took the pressure off by just wanting to enjoy it, seeing how I felt and not smashing myself to bits because Liverpool is the goal race.

Just before the start I needed another pee and the loos had a long queue. So as part of my warm-up run I ran down a country lane to see if there were any good bushes. I turned around a corner and found a lot of stinging nettles…hmm. There was a couple walking away from me a distance away but no one else around. I thought if I was super fast I could quickly just pee on the side of the verge, away from the nettles, but potentially in full view of anyone who appeared. Mid-pee I heard the sound of a man running up the road to my corner, I yelled out panicked “Stop!! Wait there!” and, as a fellow runner, he knew what was going on and yelled that he wouldn’t come round. When I’d finished and came round the corner I thanked him profusely. He laughed and said he was trying to find somewhere too.

We lined up and then off we went. I got into a good rhythm and found myself with the other lead ladies.

HAM_0165-XL (Photo credit to Paul Hammond)

I honestly felt comfortable 95% of this race. I just seemed to find a good speed. There were several hills but also good down hills as well. I managed to overtake a lady at around mile two and pushed on. As I came up to some marshals a while later they shouted that I was the first lady. I didn’t realise! I thought there was at least another lady ahead. This resolved me to maintain the lead. I think maintaining a lead is harder than gaining one as you have no real control and can’t see where the others are or know if they’re going to suddenly out-sprint you later. It’s mentally tough.

My pace was really good for me but I didn’t feel flat-out. I remember how I felt in the previous years where it was a pain train the entire time. Last year I almost considered just pretending I was sick so I could stop running (pathetic, yes) as I found it so hard. It felt very good to know I was in better shape. A good confidence boost for the marathon!

I didn’t even miss not having music (it’s not allowed as the roads aren’t closed). I just focused on my running and gave myself milestones. It honestly just felt good.

IMG_1373 (Photo credit to Paul Hammond)

At four miles I still felt good. I kept pushing and got to the end bit where you have to run around a cricket pitch before the finish (somewhat soul-destroying). With everyone cheering I pushed harder and that’s when I felt the pain train happen.

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I somehow managed to smile for the camera and then got round the corner for the sprint finish.

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My time was 33:43 (a PB by almost 40 seconds) and first lady. Finally I’d managed to get the first lady position on my third attempt!

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(Bit of Strava geeking out…comparing my race to the other two)

IMG_1391I wasn’t completed destroyed after the race either which was great! Just a bit pooped.

Alfie had a great time as well, though he barely noticed me when I ran past him despite me shouting to him. That’s love for you!Romsey (1) Obviously I got my cake ASAP (a slice of moist ginger cake) and got my dad his well-deserved beer.

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My parents were fantastic supporters, as were the running club. It was just such a great day.

IMG_1356It’s definitely more of an overall love for the event than simply the race itself, you know?

I got two beer tankards as my prizes (first lady overall and first senior lady) and took a couple more slices of cake home for the freezer (gluten-free brownie and lemon sponge).Romsey (2) You only get one cake token but if you donate money at the end (once everyone has had their slice) you can get more. And my mum was happy as I gave her a cake token someone else had given me…apparently I’m known as a cake monster or something…? My dad also got another beer as well. So everyone was pretty happy!

Overall I’m over the moon with this race. I felt good, my shin feels fine (though I’m considering just cross-training this week to be certain. Or am I being paranoid!?) and I feel like I’m back to where I was.

Romsey beer race, I’ll definitely aim to be there next year!

IMG_1394Three years of the beer race!

How was your weekend?

Do you have a race you always go back to?

Beer after a race, yes or no? I’m not a beer fan in general so it was a no for me (much to my dad’s delight).