Celebrating my birthday and not running

So I’ve taken a week off of running. After the Jersey Half (and, let’s be honest, a good number of weeks of beasting myself with races and speedwork) I needed a break from running.

Basically mentally and physically I was kind of done. Don’t get my wrong, I’m super pleased with everything I’ve achieved but I’m genuinely pooped. I could feel it happening the week before the half and the half just pushed me over the edge. My calf had begun to niggle as well – which is always a sign of me over-doing things, especially speedwork. I’ve come to realise that it really doesn’t matter what kind of strength training I do, my calves will always be my weak point and I’ll always get niggles there. Maybe I need to strengthen them up? Foam roll them more? Do more stretching? Who knows. But I’m pretty sure my calf has started to niggle because I’ve ramped up the speedwork quite a lot recently as well as the volume of my running. I never learn but there we go.

The calf is feeling a lot better though and mentally I feel a lot more chilled. At the same time I also changed gyms. I just randomly decided to do this on a whim. I saw a new PureGym had just opened literally 5 minutes from my work (though my old gym was only further down the road so really the distance isn’t a thing) and it was offering a cheaper rate. I like PureGym and because it’s all new and swanky I thought I might as well change. As much as I did like my old gym, it was old and the changing rooms were a bit grotty. There was also no air conditioning.

Anyway on Saturday morning I decided instead of parkrun (to be all sensible and keep the calf happily getting better) I went to a Les Mills spin class (“Sprint”). I’ve been to many spin classes but never a Les Mills one. And at this PureGym (North Harbour one in Portsolent) they have a “digital coach”. This means that instead of having a real person guiding you through, there was just a huge screen where you watched some Les Mills coaches giving the session. That sounds pants, I know. But actually it was brilliant. The coaches were really good. And the room was all dark which strangely made things easier – but harder? Like you could just absolutely beast it out but without worrying about people seeing you gurning. I don’t know, it worked for me! Better to have a virtual amazing coach than a sub-part bored real instructor in my opinion. It properly destroyed me though. I was a sweaty mess at the end. I think I’m a relatively fit person… I’ve run marathons and stuff. But jeeze that killed me.Then I headed quickly home to get showered and sorted to meet my uni friends for a fun birthday meal. My 30th is on Tuesday so they were down to help me celebrate. We went to one of my favourite restaurants in Southampton, Sadlers, which serves insane smoked and BBQ food. I’ve been a number of times and it’s always fairly epic.Since Jersey I’ve been craving nachos like crazy. What is wrong with me?? But I didn’t just want to order nachos (though they were renowed to be a large portion). Thankfully though my friends came to my aid and we ordered two portions for the table to share. Whew! So I was free to order my own meal of ribs. Unfortunately compared to previous times I’ve been it seems that portion sizes have changed. I mean, I know realistically I’m the only one who’d be miffed at this because I have a monster appetite but I only got two ribs. I went for the smaller portions of ribs but STILL. £15 for two ribs? You’re joking. And also, no cornbread despite it being on the menu? I’m disappointed. The ribs were good don’t get me wrong but the portion size was a bit lame.I realise for normal people this would probably be fine. But Kate went for the larger portion of ribs and got four. She paid £5 more… I just think that’s a bit lame really. I remember ordering ribs and having loads. Like I couldn’t possibly finish them. Anyway, when I saw the portion size I quickly ordered a side of wings. The wings were lush! The nachos were good too but there were blobs of pulled pork rather than a layering. So again, a bit lame.

Despite the food being somewhat underwhelming, the company was fabulous so really I didn’t mind at all. The food was tasty and we had a good time regardless. It was lovely to catch up and see them all (especially as there are now two gorgeous babies in the group as well – not that I’m a particularly baby person but as babies go, they’re alright ones).

Then we walked to Sprinkles down the road and had an immense pudding. I went for my usual Sticky Situation (lots of cookie dough, ice cream, chocolate and white chocolate). But ooof it was tough-going and I only managed HALF. What is even happening to me? Where has my monster appetite gone?!

It was just too much sweetness. But it was delicious. All in all a fantastic day. In July we’ll be going to Centre Parcs as a group to jointly celebrate all our 30th birthdays so that’ll be amazing.

Saturday evening I had a very chilled one (I was partly in a food coma if I’m honest) and watched the very strange film mother! I quite enjoyed it. Once I got on board that it was an allegory of the sixth day of creation from the Bible I found it a lot more engaging. But yeah, a weird one.

Sunday I had a nice lie-in and then took myself to another spin class (this time Spin RPM). If I thought the class the day before was hard I knew nothing. This was insane. I’ve never sweated so much in my life! And yet, as hard as it was, it was really good. Like I felt like I could properly push myself hard. My calf and everything felt fine so I could properly get into the workout and give it my all. I then did 30 minutes on the cross trainer at a light intensity. So though I didn’t get my beloved long run I did get a good sweat on and enjoyed a rather different workout.

Then I got home and ready super fast to head out for a joint celebration of Father’s Day and my birthday. My parents and I headed to The Pig in Brockenhurst. I booked this in April because it’s renowned of being super hard to get a table. We all kept remarking how lucky we were to be there on Father’s Day no less!

The Pig was AMAZING. Like the whole setting was beautiful. A very rustic and old antique style to it.The restaurant was located in a like a large conservatory type room which was just beautiful. Lots of plants, pretty paintings and rustic style furniture. And the service was so good. Very attentive, you felt well looked after.

We had mini starters before our regular starters (“Piggy Bites”) which were delicious. I had the Brock Eggs (eggs wrapped in shredded ham and bread crumbs), which tasted divine. And then for my actual starter I had the charcuterie board. Oh so tasty!!

For main I had The Pig’s signature dish, the tomahawk pork chop with a creamy sauce and a side of Isle of Wight tomatoes and basil. Literally HEAVEN. It was so tasty. But of course there was just enough room for pudding…because, why not?

I had the dark chocolate tart with toffee honeycomb ice cream. YES. A perfect way to end the meal. We all enjoyed our food and vowed definitely to come back at some point (for a special occasion, because it’s not cheap!).

A fabulous way to celebrate Father’s Day and my birthday. Despite not doing any running for the weekend, I had such a good couple of days!

How did you spend Father’s Day?

Do you like going to posh restaurants? The Pig didn’t feel super posh but it was definitely not Nando’s!

Have you ever done a Les Mills class?

Harry Potter and doughnuts – what more could I ask for?

Ah this weekend was a mad busy one. Going into it I wondered if I’d actually manage to do all the things I wanted to. Spoiler alert: happily I pretty much did.

Thursday I left work and zoomed to the station to catch a train to Birmingham. It was James’ birthday on the Friday so we had some fun time planned ahead. We spent a chilled evening eating homemade rocky road (so good, possibly my favourite thing) and watching easy TV. The next morning I got a quick 6.5 miles under my belt and even managed a royal flush negative split. I was trying to take the run easy but half of me also wanted to get back and get sorted before we caught a train to London (well, Watford). The intention was there but though it didn’t feel like a hard effort the paces were a lot quicker than I’d want. I’m trying really hard not to overdo each run in order to remain injury-free. If I want to run consistently five days a week I need to learn the balance of easy and hard. Living and learning!Anyway, so we caught the train to Watford. We were there to go to the Harry Potter Studio Tour and planned to grab some lunch beforehand. I mean, there’s not a great deal to Watford in terms of exciting things to do (Harry Potter asides) but we got ourselves our first ever Five Guys. Neither of us had had it before but had both been keen to give it a try.
I always seem to say this but I’m not a burger person…UNLESS the fillings are good. A plain burger is so dull to me. But at Five Guys you can go crazy with the add-ins. I had a bacon cheeseburger and went “all the way” but without mayo and mustard. So that includes lettuce, pickles, tomato, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms and ketchup. It was JAM-PACKED.James and I shared a large fries as well. I have to say, I was fully surprised at how good it was for what is essentially fast food. Definitely far better than a McDonalds or Burger King. That said, you are paying like three times as much… The chips were immense though. The annoying thing now is that I now have the craving and there’s a Five Guys fairly near to where I live. Oh the struggle.And then it was time for some Harry Potter fun! I won’t upload too many photos because you really need to go there to see how fun it is for yourself and photos just won’t recreate the magic. If you love Harry Potter you’ll love this tour. So many interesting facts, cool things to see and do and basically just a good time. I mean, it does make you fully realise how obsessed with Harry Potter people can be though! I’ve been to the Orlando Universal Studios and Island of Adventure where the Harry Potter themed area is (with the cool Hogwarts Express connecting the two parks) but it dilutes the craziness a bit because it’s also got lots of other non-Harry Potter stuff. This was intense Harry Potter-ness. But don’t get me wrong though, I’m a big fan too and will always love the fact that my age-group grew up with the books being released and Harry was the same age as us as we read.

After the visit, we caught a train into London where we checked into our hotel. We then headed out to buy some pudding… doughnut style. I’m obsessed with these artisan doughnuts I keep seeing everywhere on Instagram. I’m not usually a big doughnut fan but the artisan ones just look and sound amazing. Something a bit more exciting than your standard ring or jam ones! We bought six from Doughnut Time…despite only aiming to buy one. Oops.It was just a case of not being able to choose just one each. I went for a crunchy-themed doughnut (bottom left), a Nutella filled one (Love at First Bite) and It’s Always a Gay Time (top left) which is basically a lot of honeycomb caramel yumminess. James’ were Stranger Rings (chocolate glazed with Oreo crumbs and Nutella – middle top), Hans Rolo (chocolate and caramel – bottom right) and Cornelius Fudge (actually vegan with lots of chocolate and brownie pies – bottom middle).

But before we got stuck in, we headed to dinner at The Big Easy – a crab and BBQ restaurant. We ordered a sharing platter to start (even number of things helped keep things pleasant between James and I). This had lots of wings (Buffalo and BBQ), fried chicken pieces, ribs, calamari and hush puppies (not really sure what they were, fried corn bread?)This was SO good. The wings were amazing. I mean, to be honest it was all amazing. We thoroughly enjoyed this and polished it off easily. We then had another sharing platter for main. This time containing pieces of chicken, ribs, pulled pork, corn bread, coleslaw and chips (underneath the platter).I mean it was pretty damn good. The chicken was probably my favourite which is INSANE. Chicken? I know right. But it was just so tender and delicious. The ribs were obviously good too. But man, it was a struggle to finish and we didn’t manage it all. We did give it a good stab though and left feeling extremely happen, albeit quite fat! A fabulous experience nonetheless.

We did make quite a few of the staff jealous with our donuts though when we first arrived as we were carrying the box with us. We gave them a sneak peak and they all joked they could look after them for us while we ate. Surrrre 😉

Speaking of the doughnuts… After a good walk back to the hotel we did give them a try back at the hotel. What more can you dream of than doughnuts in bed, eh? I had the crunchy one which was OMG SO GOOD (filled with a delicious caramel flavoured cream). The dough was super light and melt-in-the-mouth.

I also had my Nutella one. Now I have an issue with Nutella. Sometimes I like it and sometimes I’m not a big fan. The doughnut was good but I think it was just too much Nutella for me. It was a bit of a shame but no regrets really!

So yes I realise my day of eating was TERRIBLE and I did go to bed feeling rather full . I also woke up feeling rough and not my best. But I don’t do this every day (Jesus I’d be broke). I do have the odd day at the weekend where I will push the boat out and eat foods people would class as “bad” or unhealthy but in the bigger picture of my diet, it’s fine. I eat my vegetables, I exercise… I’m a balanced individual. And I thoroughly enjoyed every single thing I ate. I woke up feeling the effects of eating a less than stellar diet which just helped remind me why I don’t do this every day. Furthermore, I don’t suddenly restrict what I eat the next day or go into a crazy “I must now diet” mentality. It was just one day (or a few days!). But I do try and get back to my more healthy approach to food and move on. Memories not calories, always my motto.

Do you worry about unhealthy food you eat?

What’s your favourite doughnut?

Do you like Harry Potter?

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?

Kingsbury parkrun and The National Running Show

So when you’re reading this I’ll be on my jolly way to Dubai. Exciting stuff! I didn’t think I’d write another post before I left but after such a fun and eventful weekend I couldn’t help myself.

I had Friday off of work as I was catching the train to Birmingham to see friends and go to the National Running Show (which I only found out was actually the first one they’ve done!). I did a quick gym session in the morning and some pre holiday jobs before my train left just before 1pm. Happily my dad was working from home and said he could drive me to Fareham station. My train was 12:47 and at 12:10 my dad said he was just going to take the dogs for a quick walk and we’d leave after that. Sounded good to me. I mean I the queen of last minute so I didn’t think anything of it.

By 12:30 he still wasn’t home and I was now very worried. I rang him a bit panicked asking where he was – it would take just about 10 minutes to get to the station and I needed to pick my ticket from the machine. It was very very close! He replied saying he thought my train was 1pm… Erm nope! He rushed home but by that time it was 12:40 and we’d never make it. In the end we had to zoom to another station down the line (Southampton Airport). To say I was stressed was an understatement, especially as I could only get that train and it cost me £72!!! Sweaty bum indeed.

Thankfully we arrived in time. And funnily enough it worked better for my dad as it was on the way to his work where he needed to drop in for the afternoon. We both wondered why we hadn’t done this in the first place… Yeah I don’t know either. I got to Birmingham without any more issues and met with my lovely running friend, James (@runeckers on Instagram). We had a nice time catching up – actually only the third time we’ve met in “real life” but we just get on so well.

We went out for a few drinks in Birmingham. We went to a bar called Bacchus and then the Postal Vaults. Very cool places indeed. I kept trying to perfect my Brummy accent but apparently I’m not there yet. More Peaky Blinders required! After that we headed to The Rub Smokehouse and met with our friend, John, who we both knew from Marathon Talk. James knew John from one of the Sandy Ball run camps and I knew John through the Austria run camp… Weird how connected it all is.

We had a couple of cocktails to start. James had a “Walking Dead” and I had an “Afternoon Tea” (which I originally poo-pooed for sounding weird…). It came out in a teapot (but wasn’t warm thankfully!) with a tiny glass of prosecco to add (like the milk I guess?). It was very tasty. I love how funky the cocktails were. Nice to have a bit of fun with that sort of thing.For my main I went for a full rack of ribs, half a chicken and pulled pork cheesy chips. I realise how disgustingly greedy this is. But it tasted amazing, and I don’t waste food. The food was epic… I mean there was a “pizza taco” on the menu – basically a 16 inch pizza folded up full of pulled pork chicken and battered prawns.John had a far more restrained steak and James had a monster burger with a corn dog on top. It was that kind of place… epic.My ribs were very tasty and the chicken was SO GOOD (as someone who regularly eats a lot of Nandos I can say this was top notch).For pudding I went for a white chocolate brownie with ice cream. Their sister company Brownie Heaven makes the brownies and I’ve heard they’re amazing.Don’t get me wrong, it was incredible, but TINY. I looked enviously at James’ pudding choice… Two doughnuts stacked on top of each other with Nutella, peanut butter and ice cream. Fortunately (for me) he struggled with the second doughnut so I got to help him out. But it left me very full indeed!It was such a lovely evening. The three of us get on so well and could probably talk about life, the universe and on for hours. It was a great evening. John headed back to his hotel (he’d been there for work) and James and I went back to his flat, where I was staying on his sofa. My night’s sleep though was terrible. Nothing to do with the comfort of the sofa (it was lovely) but I kept waking up and my heart was racing (usually I’m around 49-52 bpm at night but it was close to 75!) and I had a lot of hot flushes (meat sweats I guess…). My own fault I’m fully aware!

The next morning John, James and I headed to Kingsbury Water parkrun. This was handy for me as I needed a K for my parkrun Alphabet Challenge. It was quite the miserable morning, drizzling with rain and very cold. All three of us were happy to run round together at no great speed (relatively speaking). I was keen to not stress my calf out which was feeling good, John’s on his way back into running after some time off and James is semi-injured. Normally James and John would be roaring ahead of me!The parkrun was lovely and scenic. It goes round a lake and is a two lapper (my favourite). It’s a very picturesque and of course friendly parkrun. Though it was flat it was also very muddy underfoot. I doubt I could have blasted a super fast time if I’d have been fit enough to do so anyway. It was quite slippy. We chatted as we ran and enjoyed the views. A lovely social run.We got just over 24 minutes and significantly muddy! I felt very bad getting back into James’ car as we didn’t have any towels.When we got back to the flat (John joining us this time) we took turns showering and got some breakfast before heading to the NEC for the Running Show.The Running Show was good. It was basically like a race expo with lots of stands with brands representing their gadgets, clothes, races, nutritional products, foam rollers and more.It was nice to wander round and see different things, try out a foam roller and try some “vitamin coffee”.It was ridiculously busy and very hot though.It was a great event with a lot of potential to grow. The bigger brands like adidas, Nike and Brooks weren’t there surprisingly but I imagine after the popularity this year they’ll be there next year. I will say though that had I travelled 2.5 hours on a train by myself just for the event I might have been a bit disappointed because it did feel very much like an expo. Though to be fair I didn’t sit and watch any of the talks… So I guess I can’t judge entirely fairly. We just didn’t fancy sitting watching anyone as nothing took our interest.I saw lots of friendly and family faces, like Mary from A Healthier Moo blog (bless her, I don’t know how she does it with her crazy long distance running, night shifts and looking after her adorable son, Oscar). I also saw numerous Instagram legends, like Carl from @BigCarlRunning as a guest expert inspiring everyone around him. And of course Marathon Talk friends and friendly faces from my club. And of course the lovely Anji from @Enigmagirl81 who I’ve never met in real life but chat through social media regularly.It was a very friendly place. We gained Michelle in our group (a super fast and lovely girl originally from my running club but now living in Bister – she came to Austria too so knew John as well. All four of us will be going to Sandy Balls run camp in February).After a few hours we headed to the outlet shopping centre, Resort World, where we checked out the Nike shop (I got myself a £14 top!). Then a late lunch/early dinner in Nandos. I can only get one thing from Nandos really. I do feel bad for the sheer amount of meat consumed over the weekend but it was an out of the ordinary thing…And then it was time to part ways and head home. Always a sad thing when you’ve had such a good time together. I wish we lived closer!

Have you ever been to Birmingham?

Did you go to the National Running Show?

What would you like to see at a running show?

All the running and all the food

Two things in life make me very happy (amongst other things of course, but in general these two rank pretty high). Food and running. And these things have been going nicely hand in hand over the last few days.

So you know I said I love my new job? Well I REALLY love my new job. On the last Friday of the month Wiggle organise a run and a cycle for everyone to join in with, if they want. For the last couple of months I haven’t been able to join in, either due to coming back from injury or just not fitting in with my running schedule. But this month I was good to go finally!

They had a few different events you could sign up to: a speedy cycle, a mountain bike session in Queen Elizabeth Country Park, a gentle 5k, a trail 7k I’m QECP or a scavenger hunt walk. So it’s very inclusive. You didn’t have to do any but it was all free and started at 2.30pm Friday. I signed up to the trail run and was feeling excited. I had actually won an internal competition as well so had some brand new season dhb gear to test out too.Friday was also the national Macmillan bake sale so there was a ridiculous number of cakes floating about the office too. Happiness all round! I’d already come pre-prepared with cash ready to donate and invest in some solid pre-run fuel. I actually wolfed down my porridge at double speed when I saw them putting the cakes out as I didn’t want to miss any of the good stuff (I have s genuine fear of food running out. It’s a symptom of being the greedy person I am).So before 9.30am I’d already eaten my porridge, a peanut butter brownie, a questionable vegan brownie, a sausage roll and a GIANT scotch egg (with bacon in it). It was incredible.My work colleagues laughed at me in wonder. I like food, what can I say! 

By 2.30pm everyone who wanted to get involved was changed and ready to share lifts to their destination. We arrived in short time to QECP and got going. The group was a nice mixed bunch of men and women, some super speedy and some less so. The pace was nice and easy though the hills were sharp and frequent. We actually followed some of the parkrun route. We’d stop and walk for a but so people could catch up or catch their breath and it was a lovely amble through the beautiful countryside. The trail was a bit muddy and slippy with some tree roots and rocks about but nothing too technical. I got to know a few more of my work buddies better and chat to people I didn’t know, which was just great. Some were avid ultra marathoners, some occasional parkrunners so it was a nice mix. I find it so easy to chat to people who I already have the common ground of running with.The 7k flew by and I felt great. A few of the guys suggested another 7k loop and after a moment’s deliberation (and a quick calculation of mileage) I decided to join. I think there were about seven of us in total that did the second loop. I was a bit worried that they’d shoot off as they were all quite speedy but hey promised not to leave me behind. And asides from the first 1km straight up a giant hill, it was fine and I felt quite comfortable running.We didn’t push the pace to any extremes but we didn’t stop this time. I actually felt really good. I forget how much I love running off-road and should really do it more.At the end we grabbed a quick drink in the cafe and then one of the guys drove me back to the office to collect my car. It was a lovely way to end the week!

I got back to my parent’s house (which is now where I live) and had a lovely hot shower and a light dinner. I say a light dinner only because my lovely mum and brought me back a few pieces of cake from her bake sale at the hospital where she works. A scone, a slice of Victoria sponge, a slice of lemon drizzle cake and a chocolate crispy cake…well I was done!The next morning I was up early to catch the train to Reading to meet up with my friend, George, who I used to work with at my old job (I also did the Tough Mudder event with him a while ago) and his fiancée. He’s such a nice guy (and his partner is lovely too!) and we’re very likeminded in our love of food. In fact they have a blog which they’ve recently just started (check out their CookNoBook Instagram). The plan was to do the Reading parkrun and then go for lunch. They’ve never done a parkrun before so I was more than happy to introduce them to it.Amazingly I got to theirs without a hitch and we headed to Thames Valley Park where the parkrun was held. It was super busy and cars were parked all along the road. We parked a little walk away and got there just before the first timer’s brief.The course is nice and flat and relatively simple. A straight run out over a small bridge and then two laps around the country park bit. It goes alongside the Thames and the rather was thankfully just a little chilly but the sky was blue.

Ala, George’s partner, isn’t a regular runner so was a little nervous but we were all looking forward to it. George is like a Duracell bunny and has tons of energy. He’s in good shape from lots of martial arts. I wedged myself towards the front so I wouldn’t get too crushed or held back and George and Ala headed further back. I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel after the run the day before by as soon as we got going I felt good and decided just to see what I could do.

The first km or so is on grass and it was a little slippy but then you get onto more compact trail and it was fine, although with a few muddy patches and puddles to jump over.  As we got through the first loop I worked out what kind of speed I could hold onto and planned when to push the pace a bit more. It’s nice having two laps because you can be a bit more strategic about how you can pace without rinsing yourself too soon.As we came over the bridge again and headed on the finishing straight back to the beginning it did seem to go on forever however and it took a lot of effort to keep pushing. I managed to overtake a couple of people at the end and finished in 21:46 with a negative split. Very happy indeed. George, who I thought would overtake me at some point, was just behind in 22:01. Damn those two seconds! For his first parkrun and his first crack at running in a while that’s insane!! Nicely done indeed. Ala came in not too long behind us around 28 minutes. Again, this is amazing for her first parkrun and her not being a regular runner! I’m so happy for them! And they enjoyed it too 🙂 they said they felt very accomplished.From there we headed back to theirs to shower and get sorted. Then we headed out for some coffee, followed by lunch. The lunch spot, Bluegrass BBQ, was everything and more that I could have dreamed for. BBQ fodder at its best.We were eager beavers and actually had to walk round the block before the breakfast menu turned over to the lunch menu at 11:45. When it came to ordering, I went for the Boss Pit Platter with a side of frickles (fried pickles).My god it was good. I was glad I ventured away from my usual safe bet of just having ribs and having a platter of different things to try. There were baby back ribs, brisket, pulled pork, burnt ends, 1/4 chicken, cobs and a mountain of chips. I traded George some brisket for one of his St. Louis ribs and I was all set!
I couldn’t manage all the chips or frickles but everything else was hoovered up. God it was good. No room for pudding though for once! We did a little bit of walking after lunch (an absolute necessity to help digestion…) and headed to a lovely local event called Reading Town Meal. It’s a great event supporting the local community and fresh produce. It had chefs in training from the Reading University cooking a two course meal FOR FREE for people to munch on. It was first come first serve. Obviously we didn’t need a meal by we did get a fruit crumble to share between us…though I could only a mange a couple of bites!
There was lots going on, like face painting, free cake decorating for kids, vegetable stands, bread and things like that. It was great! But I couldn’t even think to have any more cake sadly…as good as it looked! In fact, on my way back to the station I couldn’t even manage a free Hotel Chocolat chocolate! Who even am I?? I was a very full and happy bunny in my train back home (and for once, the right train!).

The next morning I met up with fellow Bournemouth Marathon trainees, Mike, Matt and Joe, and we headed out for a 10 mile run. It was quite humid and warm but otherwise good weather to run in. We all agreed that it might be nice to have a day like that for the marathon next week… But who knows eh!

We kept the pace conversational and it flew by. When we finished the 10 I wanted to carry on and do two to three more miles afterwards so waved goodbye to everyone.I just like to do 13 miles the week before a marathon, it just works for me doing half the distance. I also wanted to see how my legs felt running solo after a long run. I really don’t know where I am with my pace for this marathon so it was nice to see what my legs naturally felt like doing. I don’t think I’ll be running near the 8 mins though! But I’m just going to see how I feel on the day. If anything at the beginning feels too hard, I’ll slow it down. I’m not aiming for a PB (that would be foolish considering I’m not in that sort of shape!) but equally I think I can do a bit faster than a four hour marathon. We shall see.

How was your weekend?

Have you been to Reading recently? It’s got quite a nice selection of coffee shops and restaurants.

Do you enjoy a platter at a restaurant? I quite like a meze board for the variation.