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 ūüėČ 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‚Ķ 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 ūüôā

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 ūüėČ

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‚Ķ 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 caf√© 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‚ĶIMG_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 ūüėČ 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 ūüôā

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‚Ķ 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‚Ķ 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‚Ķ ;-)), 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‚Ķ 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‚Ķ 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‚Ķwonderful. 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‚Ķ). 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‚Äôt 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? 

My third Bristol parkrun and a tough long run

It seems like I’m in Bristol at the weekend more than I am in Southampton at the moment. I drove up there on Friday after work to stay over with my friends, Kate and Jamie, so Kate and I could then drive together to Cardiff for my other friend’s baby shower.

I never really need an excuse to go to Bristol if I’m honest. I love it there and Kate and Jamie are brilliant hosts. And Jay always cooks a mean dinner! We had roast chicken, salad, wedges and wraps.He’d used a BBQ rub on the chicken and it was delicious.¬†I was in charge of pudding, which is always a bit dangerous. I bought a dessert pizza (I only recently found out this was a thing!) and some ice cream.Ben and Jerry’s Blondie Brownie is my absolute favourite (it has that salted caramel core and big chunks of blondie and brownie in it, divine!) and Jude’s was on offer (brown butter pecan) so I thought, ahh why not.The dessert pizza was actually quite disappointing. This might have been because it defrosted on the way to Bristol and then we over-baked it. It was just a bit dry and boring. However,¬†with the ice cream it worked very nicely. Needless to say we all felt very full and slightly sick and I had memories of Orlando…

I’d managed to persuade my friends to go to a different parkrun the next morning rather than Pomphrey Hill that we usually go to. I’ve never been to Ashton Court parkrun and a (very speedy) friend from Southampton was coincidentally also going to be there so it seemed nice time to test it out.It was a beautifully sunny morning but still fairly cold. I didn’t take a coat with me and was feeling very chilly, though the sunshine definitely helped. Kate and Jamie brought their lovely little pug, Doug, with them as their parents were popping down to watch us run so could look after him.¬†I also met a very lovely blog reader. Hello Liz!Ashton Court parkrun is a very interesting parkrun. The course is basically 1.5~ miles straight uphill and then 1.5~ miles straight downhill. My Southampton friend gave some good advice on how to run it, basically saying that you needed to push it on the first half as this is where you got your time. Going downhill is easy so there’s no worry about effort level there. So give it hell for the first bit and grit your teeth through the pain!

It was quite a busy parkrun, surprisingly given how intimidating the course was (over 500 people). I decided to listen to some music to get my head in the zone. Annoyingly I hadn’t got myself to a decent spot in the start (which was very busy) as I was faffing around and I hadn’t found satellites on my Garmin either, which meant my run was messed up on Strava.

But anyway, I got going. The beginning is on the flat so you can sort of get yourself going before you then start trekking uphill. It really was a grind. I just kept pushing, feeling the good vibes from my music and letting people overtake me.

Then, disaster, my music went from rocking motivating tunes to… Bear’s Den. I love Bear’s Den. But I love it when I’m chilling out not when I’m trying to maintain a hard effort level. Arrrrghhh! So I had to ferret into my FlipBelt and get my phone out to change the track – no idea why Bear’s Den was on my running playlist! But on the plus side, it meant I could snap a photo as I was running.

As ever, the photo doesn’t do justice to the hill

Though the hill was hard, I knew it would be over fairly soon. As we got past the steepest point and headed to the turnaround bit (the speedier runners now hurtling downhill, including my friend – who by the way did this in around 18:40!) the end was in sight. I reached the halfway turnaround and headed back downhill…but now the wind was in my face. Luckily this was only really because we were quite high and had no shelter, so as we got to the steepest downhill section the wind disappeared.

Photo Credit:¬†John O’Brien

And the fun began. I’ve never run so fast in my life! I’ve never looked at speed bumps with genuine concern that I might fall over one if my foot was placed wrongly. I managed to overtake quite a few people who had previously overtaken me which was nice. And then we reached the last flat bit before the finish…ooof this was hard because suddenly I couldn’t maintain that super fast speed anymore but had to hang on as best as I could.

Photo Credit: John O’Brien

I came in at 22:39, which I was buzzing about because it was faster than last week’s Netley!And I was happy with my fastest ever mile on that downhill. I’ll take that!

Kate and Jamie enjoyed it too which made me happy. They’d recently done the Bath Half Marathon and hadn’t enjoyed it that much so it was nice for them to feel the love of running again. Where better than at parkrun, eh?Kate and I then had to get sorted and showered and sorted fairly pronto as we were driving to Cardiff for our friend’s baby shower.

We arrived at midday and found¬†Shell making her own sandwiches for the baby shower (tut tut, Rob!) so we quickly took over while Shell could relax and look her lovely (pregnant!) self.It was a lovely afternoon. We ate lots of really tasty food; I love a buffet, and the food was rather posh! (Think M&S).And played lots of fun games that her sister, Rebecca, had organised. We did a baby-focused quiz which was actually quite tough and then a crafts-focused game.¬†We had to design baby socks for¬†a career that we were given on a piece of paper. Mine was a baker.I’m actually quite impressed at my craft-skills. Basic but not entirely terrible!Everyone did really well: (L:R) teacher, movie star, astronaut, baker (I did two socks for some reason), musician, vet, athlete and doctor.

Then we wrote advice on the back of puzzle pieces for the baby to read later in life. Here are mine:Wise, I think ūüėČ

Then I headed back to Southampton. The next morning I was up at 8.30am to run a long run with my friend, Mark, and a triathlete called James who joined us. Both are a lot faster than me but thankfully they were happy to go around 8 minute miles. They wanted about 13 miles and I wanted 16 so I ran over a mile to our meeting point and planned to run a mile and a bit back. It was a very sunny and warm morning and for some stupid reason I was wearing long sleeves.

The run was really very hard. The pace wasn’t crazy but there was a gusty wind coming from all directions which tested me. The temperature didn’t help and, let’s be honest, the food over the past few days and just my general fitness wasn’t the best.

I started to struggle from about eight miles I think but it was an overly mental thing rather than my legs not working. It helped chatting to James and Mark and this took my mind off things. But as we got to around 10 miles I realised I was quite thirsty.

Mark was great at keeping me going and tolerated me moaning (he has withstood many of my moanings at parkrun, bless him). He’s aiming for a sub 3:05 at Brighton in a few weeks so he’s in great shape right now…whereas I felt like I was crawling at times.

When we got back to the starting point, James had a bottle of water and was so kind to let me guzzle down a load. I felt a lot better! I also felt a lot better knowing I had about 1.5 miles of running on my own, which meant I could slow down if I wanted to. Surprisingly though I kept the pace up. Though when I was finished I really was finished.The rest of the day was like a sleepwalk. I was tired, lethargic and just hazy. I made sure to drink lots of water (with electrolytes) and eat good solid meals but I went to bed that night drained.

(I didn’t forget Mother’s Day. I’m taking my mum to London in April for lunch at Jamie’s Fifteen. She spent the day with my sister seeing Beauty and the Beast. I was grateful to have the day to myself if I’m honest – I know, terrible daughter – because I was just so tired. I wouldn’t have been great company!)

So a good weekend which left me exhausted!

How do you recover after a hard long run?

What’s the most interesting parkrun course you’ve done?

What’s your favourite Ben and Jerry’s flavour?