Double BBQ and the first proper long run

This weekend was another busy one.¬†On Friday evening I headed to Bristol to stay over my friend’s house. I was quite stressed out and in a bad mood as I left but after chilling out to some music I got back into a happy place and was ready for a weekend of fun.

I’m always fed so well at Kate and Jamie’s. I never stress out that I’ll be hungry or I won’t like what the make as they know me quite well ūüėČ The next morning I had a lazy lie-in until 8.30am and then we got ready for yet another obstacle race, the Rough Runner 10k. I love doing these kinds of race with Kate and Jamie because they’re such good fun.The races are very relaxed and we go into them just looking to enjoy ourselves. We run as a group and tackle each obstacle together, motivating each other and of course laughing when someone face plants or falls off an obstacle. It’s really not that serious and doing races like this is a nice change and something that keeps me from getting fed up of road race after road race. I love my “normal” races but a change is always needed once in a while!

I’ll recap that in a separate post as it deserves it ūüôā After the race Jay manned the BBQ while Kate and I popped to the supermarket to grab some salad bits and pudding. Normally we’d go out for a meal after a race but as it was such a nice day (oof I got sunburnt during the race), a BBQ seemed like a far better plan. Jay is like the BBQ master. They always host an annual BBQ every year (coming up in July, whoop whoop!) which I always look forward to so I was really chuffed to have an early taster session.There were sausages, burgers, chicken pieces, ribs, pork belly and lamb pieces. I was in heaven! They really do do a great spread.By the time we sat down we were all ravenous, having had breakfast over five hours ago!¬†I ate a bit (*cough* a lot) of everything and felt well and truly refuelled and restored. But obviously a bit of pudding was required too to fully finish the meal off nicely.Ooof such a good pudding. A salted caramel cookie topped with brownie and salted caramel ice cream. It was delicious. And so I drove home in a very content state of satisfaction. As always, a fun time had been had in Bristol!

I’d originally planned on getting up super early Sunday to get my long run in before it got too hot but actually the temperature was a lot cooler and it looked to continue that way the next day. So I treated myself to another lie in (8.15am) and headed off for my long run at 9am. I always walk Alfie beforehand to help wake me up and warm my legs up. I never usually have breakfast before either. I just make sure I’ve eaten enough the day before (see above…) and I like to run fasted as when I race I do use fuel so the boost is so much more pronounced on race day. This might be rubbish but psychologically it works for me.

I started off the run actually feeling pretty pants. I felt tired, my legs felt heavy and I was fairly demotivated. I was doing a usual long run route around the seafront area of Hill Head and Lee-On-Solent and I was genuinely dreading how far I had to go. Being so familiar with the route made me just dread it even more.

But I was listening to a really interesting TED Radio Hour (a podcast which looks at a few different of the TED Talks with an overriding theme). The one I was listening to was about robots and how that might affect the future of jobs and the economy. So it kept me amused and the miles ticked by a bit easier. As always, after the initial few miles I felt better. It wasn’t as hot but it was very windy but the wind was mostly coming across me so wasn’t too bad and kept me cool.

I carried some water with me and filled up at my usual dodgy tap on the seafront promenade (it looks suspect but doesn’t have a “no drinking water” sign… I’ve drunk from it several times and never had an issue but I always refer to it as a dodgy tap as I’m not entirely sure) which is at about half-way.I felt good after finishing the run but very tired. It’s the longest run I’ve done in a while and I think it’s on of those “ahh this feels like marathon training” runs. Glad to have ticked it off!

And then I had¬†another BBQ with my family. My sister and her fiance came over so it was nice to them as well. My sister was lamenting that she’s put on weight. She’s the person who has never exercised, smoked and always eaten fairly badly (a diet of pizza and cereal would be an accurate description) but never had weight issues. She’s always been quite slim (I think my sister and me are quite lucky in that respect. I know I exercise a lot but I’ve never had an issue with weight even when I didn’t exercise and ate terribly at school). But recently the medication she’s been on has caused her to gain a bit of weight and she’s facing a situation she’s never had before (bar when she was pregnant). I tried to give her some advice but seen as how she hates exercise and, in her words, “likes cheese a lot” it might be tricky! It’ll be interesting to see her change her eating habits… ūüėČ (I’m allowed to say this as she’s my older sister!)

The food and family time was great. But I’m shattered now!

How did you spend the weekend?

Do your friends ever cook you dinner?

Do you carry water on long runs?

XRunner Wild Mud Run recap

So this weekend I was back up in Bristol again. As standard procedure, I stayed with Kate and Jamie and they cooked me another very tasty meal of make-your-own burritos.

I’m only just realising how much I enjoy Mexican (or at least, Tex-Mex) food. Tortillas, turkey mince, refried beans, guacamole, rice and salad… heavenly. I brought pudding. I was aiming for healthy without fruit, but that fell flat as I gave up and just went for lemon meringue pie with lemon meringue ice cream (yes, this is an actual thing).Biscuit flavoured ice cream (biscuit!!) with lemon curd¬†and meringue pieces. I mean, you¬†might have thought that that was a bit too much lemon meringue in one bowl but you’d be wrong.

So we were nicely fuelled for our next day’s adventure, the X-Runner Wild Mud Run 10k. Now this obviously isn’t great for marathon training but it¬†is great for general fun and happiness. We were in the 11.30am wave (200-400 runners set off in half an hour waves) and had to be there an hour before. This meant leaving at about 8am as it was just north of Birmingham. The team consisted of Kate, Jay, Jay’s friend Alex, the lovely Katherine (who has done a lot of parkruns and the escape room with us), Kate’s sister Becky and me.Parking was easy (and ¬£5) and it was a short walk down to the race village. As we got closer and closer we could see a lake and lots of obstacles. We also saw people who had already finished the race from earlier waves trudging past us, soaked and muddy. *Gulp*We picked up our numbers (not a bib, but a wristband – bibs apparently wouldn’t survive), our t-shirts (which we’d be wearing to run in – something I’d never do for a running race but strangely acceptable for an obstacle race) and signed a disclaimer. Then we wrote our numbers on our forehead.This was advised so that the photographers could identify us easily. Plus it made us look bad ass. Sort of. The race village had lots of food trucks (ahh the smell of food you can’t eat…), a bag drop and fire pits. Let me tell you, more races need fire pits. It was fairly chilly that morning and standing next to a fire pit while we were waiting to go to our wave was AMAZING.Then we were off. We weren’t aiming for a time, we just wanted fun. Obstacle races are never about finish times really because you want to “enjoy” them and there’s always a little wait for each obstacle anyway. There’s also a camaraderie element where everyone helps each other, roots people on and you wait for your team mates (or they wait for you). It’s just a fun thing to do and the running is far down the list of what it’s actually about.

The first few obstacles were things like hay bales and climbing over walls, which were good fun. Then we had to run up a bloody big hill which really separated the people in the wave. The beginning was probably where most of the running happened, from running up hills to running through¬†trees, fields and woodlands. After a few minutes of running you’d hit another obstacle.

One thing that concerned me was the organiser’s stress of DO NOT DRINK THE WATER or get it in your mouth. This was due to bacteria within the water that could potentially make you ill. So every time we came near a water section or splashed through large puddles I held my mouth firmly closed.

The first water experience wasn’t too bad as we were quite warm by this point. It was up to your bum (quite a shock to the nether regions I must say!). We had to duck under barbed wire which was good fun and not that difficult.This was just as we were coming out of the water. I was feeling all happy and chippy. Barely a speck of mud on me!

A few more obstacles, a couple more stretches of running and then we hit some trenches of very muddy water. It was tough because you couldn’t see where you were putting your feet and I consequently ended up falling down a hole within the water so I was quickly up to my chest¬†in water. My friends laughed and I found it very funny, though shockingly cold. Little did we know what was to come.

As we came round the corner there were long stretches of mud. A bit like a really muddy cross country route that had been run on several times over, churning up the mud. Running through seemed better as we were less likely to sink to our ankles. But as we got further through the mud we caught up with more and more people and realised why there was a bottleneck.The mud that was up to our ankles was now up to our knees. It was very thick and required a lot of strength to wade through. And as we wading through we got deeper and deeper. It was such a bizarre experience. I’ve never been in so much mud in my life. I was using my hands to comb through it and no longer cared about how muddy I was getting.

What was unnerving the most though was not knowing where to put your feet because some parts were a lot deeper than others. Some people decided not to follow the queue of people and headed out around them only to find themselves up to their chests in the thick mud and getting stuck.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it took like 30 minutes to get across about 15m of mud. It was just impossible. Lots of people had decided to skip the section by going under the course partition to avoid it because it was getting to be a bit ridiculous. I had to use the help of several people around me to pull myself out at times. And often having to use my arms to tug my legs out of the mud to keep moving. You could find yourself panicking a bit because it was rather scary being so stuck in the mud and sinking.

Several people lost trainers. After we finished the mud section (sorry, the¬†swamp section), a girl was stood holding both her trainers (well, what looked like trainers anyway…they were completely coated in mud and looked like two muddy boulders) standing in her socks.

Eventually we made it to the part I was most dreading. The swimming part. This involved going up a ladder to a platform to then slide down into a body of water. I was quite cold by this point as the mud part had taken so long and I had lost the warmth I’d gained from all the exertion bits before. I was really not wanting to do this. But as my team were doing it so I had to man up.That there is the face of someone who has accepted her fate but is not one bit happy.The shock of the water took my breath away as we all slid down together and were fully submerged. And I couldn’t get out fast enough. A few swear words might have been said, I won’t lie.

Getting out of the water I was more numb than cold now. It was quite a strange feeling. But as we got running again I started to get very cold. Our next obstacle were monkey bars across more water. I gave it a good go and think I managed three before my slippery hands gave up on me and I dropped myself into the water. AGAIN.

Then we had to get across some floating yellow square things. It was tricky to balance.Then back into the water again. Enjoyment factor now was slightly lower as the cold was really hitting me. A large hill awaited us and I charged up it as fast as I could to get warm again.

We were then faced with a GIANT slippy slide which was just awesome. I slid down on my tummy all the way down a 50m slide-y mat thing and it was just brilliant.

We then had a few more obstacles to get through. The water had cleaned off most of the mud so that was somewhat of a plus!At this point we were nearing the end of the first lap (5k). I was starting to shake with col. It had taken us almost an hour and a half at this point. The thought of going round again (but this time now soaking wet and cold) wasn’t appealing to me at all.

We had a little team meeting as we ran to the next obstacle and decided to just do the one lap. It would take us probably almost four hours in total otherwise (imaging it would be about two hours for another lap as it had already taken 1:30 hours and we weren’t finished yet). This made me feel a lot better knowing we were almost finished!We climbed over things, jumped over some fire (as you do) and then had the final obstacle: jumping off a tower platform thing into a giant mattress. I was like, “pfft! This is fine”. Until I got up there.In the photo above you can see me turn away basically saying “I can’t do this”. Kate was lovely and gave me lots of encouragement but I was really quite scared. This surprised and annoyed me. The marshals told us we needed to land bum first rather than feet first and I was worried I’d cock up and then injure myself.

After having a word with myself, I went for it (after about four false starts). I screamed all the way down but it was actually good fun and the landing ridiculously soft. I felt really chuffed with myself! I thought I was made of stronger stuff, but this really tested me.

And then we were finished, whew!! Even though we didn’t do the two laps and only did 5k, it was the hardest 5k I’ve ever done. I thought this would be fairly easy – a few hay bales to clamber over, a few muddy bits to get a bit mucky in and la di da. But this was really hard work. The mud swamp was crazy, the hills so steep and the water FREEZING.

But that said, it was bloody good fun! Though I did get very cold at the end I don’t regret doing it and would do it again for definite. It was just a good laugh and a challenging day. I’m disappointed with myself that¬†we didn’t do another lap but I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have enjoyed it, knowing I had to do the water bit all again.We were given our medals, a hot soup and the foil blankets. I have never been so glad to see foil in my life.

Then we headed to the cold showers (otherwise known as hoses) and showered off as best as we could. The worst part was trying to find my bag. It was not an easy process and their bag drop system needs some serious rethinking. I was on the point of freezing despair when I finally found it.

We trudged back to the car and then had the almost impossible task of getting dried and changed without exposing ourselves to the world. We’d brought towels and a spare set of clothes…the process was not fun. I was so cold. But eventually we were in the car, heating on full and heading for food. Bliss.

We stopped at a services and, with our foreheads still branded and us all looking disgusting and dishevelled, we each grabbed our respective food choice. It was now 3pm and we were all VERY hungry. I went for a foot-long turkey Subway with a Starbucks. Oh that Starbucks tasted SO good. Life was good again.Then we headed home. I was staying the night again with Kate and Jamie and she kindly washed my clothes for me. Though we had to do a bit of hosing down beforehand…And then relax! Obstacle and mud runs are really nothing like road races. Or running races in general. No one cares about time (well,¬†most people don’t) and you run as a group. It’s about having a laugh, getting muddy and helping each other out.It’s also about not underestimating how tough it’s going to be. I thought I was going to be absolutely fine because I can run faster than most of my team. But it’s 100% not about the speed you can run, or how many marathons you’ve done. It’s about grit, mental strength and the ability to keep going despite all your sense being assaulted at once. I was definitely tested and my ego took a beating – something which I think regularly needs to happen!

Have you ever done a mud/obstacle race?

What really challenges you?

If you had to choose what would you rather: be really cold, be really hungry or really tired? I think it’s¬†the cold for me. Though I can become a right moody so and so when I haven’t eaten, I can survive. But a cold Anna is not a happy Anna at all.

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?

Two cities, two runs, and two tasty meals

Well I have definitely had a bit of a whirlwind start to the year.¬†Going to Orlando, then going to the Marathon Talk Run Camp and then going to Tokyo… And the fact that last weekend (the first weekend after Tokyo) I went to Bristol and then Swindon. So I’m really looking forward to a weekend of doing nothing!

To be fair though the weekend was really good. I drove up to Bristol and spent Friday night with my friends, Kate and Jamie (the ones I went to Orlando with). We had a nice home-cooked meal (with chocolate cake, love my friends) and then a gentle evening of TV watching. Exactly what I needed!

In the morning we didn’t have time for parkrun before picking up another friend from the train station so I got out early-ish to do a quick 3 miles on my own. Well, it was supposed to be a 3 miles¬†until I got lost and ended up doing over 3.6 miles. Not too bad by my usual standards. I just couldn’t seem to work out what road I’d come down. It was OK though as I found a pretty pond and water feature to take a selfie with when I got my phone out to check where I was ūüėČThe weather was just lovely and the scenery very pretty so it had to be done though I kind of wish I hadn’t got the bin quite so prominently in the photo!

The run felt good. It was the second run I’d done since the marathon. On Thursday night I’d run with my friend, Mike. Stupidly we’d gone almost 8 miles… I really shouldn’t have post marathon because, well, I’m so fragile and injury prone but we had a lot to catch up on. We call these runs “therapy runs”. Mike’s a good friend and we always have good chats about life and the universe on these runs. My legs definitely felt heavy and it was a slog but it was a good run regardless.

Anyway Saturday’s run felt better. Then I got back and got ready to head out for a day of fun with my friends. We were celebrating Kate’s birthday and were heading to one of those “locked in” room games, called Puzzlair. We’ve done one previously and it was brilliant. This one was very similar but equally as stressful.The people that ran it was so friendly and helpful. The whole reception area was covered with people leaving feedback all over the walls, it was quite impressive. The idea behind the game is that you get locked in a room that’s full of clues. You have one hour to get out of the room. There are things to open using codes and keys that you have to find everywhere. It’s such good fun but you really do have to think hard and clearly. If you get really stuck there’s a TV that gives you clues (the organisers watch you and so can help you when you need it). But even those tips are still cryptic. We got out with 2:35 mins to spare!From there we headed to a really tasty Lebanese place that I’ve been to before and loved. We ridiculously over-ordered. I mean, we would have been OK had there been four Annas not one Anna and three normal people…It was so tasty; lots of lamb koftas, lamb cutlets, chicken wings, prawns, shawarmas, couscous, flat bread, rice…and lots more. It overcame us (yes, even me. I was clearly having an off-day). We got it wrapped up to take back though. I was staying with Kate again for Saturday night so dinner was sorted!

The next morning I headed off early to meet my new friend from Tokyo, Chris, in Swindon for a run. He’s an off-roading pro and offered to give me a fun running experience just outside of Swindon. He warned me it would be hilly and muddy so I came prepared with my trail shoes. I rarely do any off-road running and I’m keen to get more into it as I need to change things up from all the road running. I’m hoping that’ll help keep me more injury free as well!

He’d picked a fantastic route, just a small section of the Ridgeway (apparently the oldest road in Europe! And part of the iconic Race to the Stones ultra race). We parked up and ran a 4.5 mile route out and back. It was muddy straight away but then we headed across grasslands which was a lot easier underfoot. The wind was behind us which was great…but as we were doing an out-and-back not so great for later.

The views going up the hills was really beautiful. I twas a fantastic run where the miles just ticked off because there was a lot to see and the terrain so varied, going across grass, up hills, along stones… it was a lovely run.As we turned around at 4.5miles (after a rather punishing steady incline) the wind was right against us. Then the rain began. It got very tough. Honestly, the last two miles of the run with that icy wind blowing strongly against us (I felt like I wasn’t even moving, or worse getting blown away at times!) I truly believe that the last two miles of the marathon the other week were easier! It was funny because though Chris might have struggled a little on the marathon he seemed absolutely fine against the elements and off the road. I really had to dig deep and have a word with myself. It’s amazing how you can be OK at running one type of terrain but completely out of your comfort zone in another. I was glad that Chris had seen me running at the marathon otherwise he might have thought I was pants at running (and a moaner…).

We couldn’t even talk much (and not just because I was slowly dying), the wind was so strong I couldn’t hear a thing! By the end of the run I was shattered but felt really accomplished. I survived!Embarrassingly when I uploaded the run to Strava I wrote “ridiculously easy” run as the title, meaning “ridiculously windy” – no idea how “easy” came up! It was only when a friend commented that I realised. No it was 100% NOT easy!!As I hadn’t had any breakfast or a coffee that morning and we were both very cold (even though I wore gloves my hands were freezing – I don’t know how Chris managed without any on), we headed straight to Starbucks. We were covered in mud and looking a state (well, my hair was definitely something to behold!) but I just needed a hot drink. Then we got showered and sorted and headed out for a lovely pub lunch. Exactly what you need after a windy, cold and hilly run!

We went to the¬†The Harrow Inn¬†in Swindon and it was lovely, a very cosy country pub. I had a butternut squash soup to start (so thick and tasty) and roast pork shoulder for a main.There was veg as well¬†but I was too hungry to snap a proper photo. It was really tasty and filling. We both spotted something on the pudding menu that took our fancy (brownie for me, no surprises there) but sadly they didn’t have the sticky toffee pudding for Chris so we decided to give it a miss. We were quite full anyway (who even am I right??) so it wasn’t too bad.

Then it was time to head off home and finally be reunited with my furry little friend, Alfie, who I hadn’t properly seen since before Tokyo. A lovely weekend with lovely people ūüôā

Have you ever done a locked in room?

Are you good with solving puzzles and clues?

What’s your favourite roast dinner?

Chepstow Stampede 10k (Obstacle Mud Run) and foodie fun

I’ve never done a proper obstacle mud race before and honestly I was fairly nervous.¬†I had signed up to run the Chepstow Stampede 10k¬†with my friends, Kate and Jamie, a while ago and now it was suddenly here.

I drove to Bristol to stay with them on Friday night. Because I’m such an intelligent savvy pro at life (*cough*) I winged it with their address in my sat nav with what I¬†thought¬†it was and then found out later I was actually going to the wrong place. In all fairness I was¬†very close with the address;¬†it was in Bristol at least. I haven’t driven to their house in the dark before is my excuse… It just set me back 15 minutes, whoops. Lesson learnt once again never to trust my own (questionable) intelligence in anything.

We had a delicious chicken salad for dinner. Who even are these friends anymore?? They would laugh at me for eating salad in America and now they’re completely converted! They’re like new people. And then we¬†had an early night ready to get up the next morning to drive to Chepstow. We also picked up Kate’s friend, Katherine, en route who I’d met when we’d all done parkrun together a few times a few months ago.

chepstow-stampedeRandom guy in the right photo at the bib pick-up tent…

It was really fun going to the race and picking up our bibs because the three of them had never done a race before. What was a fairly normal and mundane process for me was new and exciting to Kate, Jamie and Katherine. They’d never had a bib number before, had the usual struggles and gripes about where to pin it and getting it straight… it was just really refreshing to go through the process with them (without sounding ridiculously patronising – we were all new to this once after all!).img_6040That said, I was actually really nervous about this race as it was something I’ve never really done before. I’ve done obstacle courses before but never an actual race. I was really glad it wasn’t raining, though it was very chilly. We’d agreed to run it as a team and help each other where needed. Right, let’s do this.img_6041The race started off on road at the Chepstow Racecourse and on a sharp downhill. The running for me was generally fairly easy as I’m a bit faster normally to the others but it was nice to run with them. We didn’t know what to expect in terms of obstacles but we did know at some point we’d be getting wet, so that weighed heavily on all our minds as the temperature was far from ideal.

The first obstacle was climbing over a wooden wall thing. It had very narrow ‘steps’ to use but it was really slippy. I ambitious threw myself at it and slipped almost immediately. More time and care required! It was quite high up but I just didn’t look down and got over it, literally. Kate was very cautious and nervous because she hates heights but she bossed it like a pro!

The first mile flew by. It was crazy how quickly it was going, despite having to wait a good few times for obstacles as there gets to be a bit of a build up while you wait for people. I don’t have a huge amount of obstacle racing experience but I think if you’re expecting to get really good times it will be hard because, from speaking to other people who’ve done similar races, you usually do have to wait a bit. But you can use that time to see (and judge!) other people’s strategies for getting over…and what not to do!

There were lots of obstacles in each mile, things like hay bales to climb over, tunnels to wriggle through, more walls to get over and tires to climb through – things like that basically. Nothing too difficult but also not easy per se, especially after you’ve been running. One of my favourites was climbing up a steep muddy wall using a rope. That was good fun. For each obstacle you didn’t have to do it and normally there was an easier option to choose from as well.

On the last mile there was the dreaded full body submerging into cold muddy water. There were a load of logs held above a stretch of water and you had to crawl under them, your head just above the water, to get through. It was FREEZING. But you just got in there and got it done. The more you think about it the worse it’ll be.

I got out the other side in shock of just how cold it was. It was that weird feeling that I knew I was cold but I hadn’t registered it yet as my body¬†numb. It was only after we continued to run and the wind whipped at us that we¬†really felt it. But we survived! We had to run up that bastard hill that we ran down at the start and crossed the finish line holding hands feeling like warriors.10k-stampedeWe did it in 1:44:33. We were aiming for sub 2 hours so that was perfect. Actually we think it would have been closer to 1.5 hours had we not had to wait so much (1.5 hours was our A Goal ;-)).¬†It was such a fun race. It didn’t feel like any race I’ve done before. I certainly wouldn’t do it on my own – I¬†think the appeal of these races are that you do them with friends and help each other, rather than try and get a speedy time. I didn’t care that I was running (and walking at times) a lot slower than I normally would. It was just such a fun experience.img_6045You weren’t¬†just getting through the miles: you never knew what was coming round the corner, what massive hill would turn up next or crazy obstacle you’d have to get past. The race flew by! I fully recommend it – and for someone who hates being cold and wet, that is good praise indeed! I’m grateful it wasn’t raining though as the course had the potential to get¬†very muddy so we weren’t quite as dirty as we could have been!img_6051

Just a few tips that I thought I’d share¬†for an obstacle/mud run:

  • Don’t go with a time ambition.
  • Wear trail shoes that you don’t really care about.
  • Wear running clothes you’re not bothered about ruining but equally if you’re doing the race in colder temperatures, wear long sleeves and leggings but nothing that if it gets wet will really weigh you down.
  • Possibly wear gloves with grips – I found my hands got very cold and torn around a bit on the obstacles.
  • Bring a towel and a spare set of clothes.

img_6053

  • Bring bin bags to either sit on in the car or put your clothes into afterwards.
  • Help anyone and everyone; there’s such a camaraderie feeling between everyone, whether you know them or not.

img_6054After we’d all had lovely hot showers we headed out for the real prize: FOOD. We went to Spitfire in Bristol which I’ve been to before. Katherine ordered a steak but the rest of us ordered the St. Louis ribs. When I ordered the waiter said, “This is usually shared between two people – it’s quite a lot of food” and Kate was like, “you don’t know Jamie and Anna”. We ordered some chicken wings to share as well. I won’t lie, our stomachs were doing the talking.img_6056We were all in heaven. The ribs were delicious. Up there with the best. The chicken wings were good too.img_6063Jamie and me had no issues polishing off our ribs, though we were defeated by the wings.

Despite being very full we decided to head to a gelato cafe for some pudding. Ooof. I decided to not go quite as decadent as I could have been and had three scoops: Mint Aero, Toffee Crisp and Malteaser. Delicious!img_6065

Then I needed a nap…but I had to drive home. It was a fantastic weekend of the best kind: running and food ūüėČ

What’s your favourite ice cream flavours?

What would be your worst obstacle?

Have you ever done a mud race before?