My 200th parkrun and NO CAKE?!

I love a weekend like this, packed full of running, lovely people and  good food. Shocking for me I know.

Kyle and I headed to Netley for parkrun on Saturday morning. It was going to be my 200th! I wanted to spend it at my home parkrun where I knew I’d see lots of lovely familiar faces and have a coffee afterwards. My intention was to bring cakes to celebrate but then decided against it due to a mixture of a) not being able to bake because I’m horrendous at it, b) not wanting to buy crappy ones from the supermarket, and c) I worried that the weather would be awful and no one would want any because they’d be too busy dashing off home to get warm.

Well, when we turned up the sun was shining and the skies were blue. My lack of cakes did not get unnoticed and I got quite a few comments. Apparently I’m the least likely person to not bring cakes for a milestone. Whoops. I saw my friend, Joe, briefly – he was very busy being the run director. But he did shout out my 200th in the pre-run bit which was nice (YES I KNOW IT’S NOT AN OFFICIAL MILESTONE).

My plan was to push my legs a little but not go as fast as Southsea parkrun the week before. As soon as I started running I could tell things were going to be harder. I’d done a legs day at the gym on Friday and consequently my they felt heavy and clunky. Netley’s winter course has two hills and you do the lap three times, so it’s quite a tough run. The wind was very strong but thankfully it wasn’t dead against us, and actually when we had to go up one of the hills it helped push us up. So not too bad at all.

Photo Credit: Andrew Thorne

Kyle and I ran together and we managed to overtake the local celeb and Olympic athlete, Iwan Thomas. He nicely shouted “well done” to us but then exclaimed “oh blimey, mate, those shorts are a bit short! I think I need to burn my eyes out now”. This was directed at Kyle, not me, which was immensely funny. Giggling definitely helps you forget the pain of trying to run fast!

Photo Credit: Andrew Thorne

As we got up the final hill my legs were burning but I could feel Kyle on my heels and though we weren’t really racing I didn’t want him to overtake me at the last bit. So our sprint finish looks quite epic!

Photo Credit: Ben Vanes

Though to be honest, Kyle looks quite relaxed!

Photo Credit: Ben Vanes

I finished in 21:25, Kyle one second behind (the gentleman). This is good progress for me, considering I didn’t want to go faster than Southsea, because the course is a lot harder at Netley. I mean it definitely FELT harder I will say!

After a lovely coffee and catch-up with some of the other guys, we headed back to shower and get sorted.

That evening we headed to one of our favourite restaurants, Red Dog Saloon. Their menu had recently changed so we decided to check it out. For starters we had chicken wings (Buffalo sauce with blue cheese dip, so good).

And then for the main I had St. Louis ribs, smoked sausage and a few more chicken wings. I honestly think chicken wings are one of my top five foods. I managed to persuade the waitor to give me three chicken wings on the side instead of a usual side (chips, onion rings etc.). He very kindly sorted this for me!

Kyle had Southern fried chicken. We were happy! When we like somewhere we struggle not to keep going back, as you’ll see in a bit…

We then headed to a friend’s 30th birthday party. I managed to scavenge a free pudding from the birthday man, Ed, himself. I was devastated when I tried to order pudding and found the kitchen was closed, but Ed told me he wasn’t eating his so I could have it. I was super grateful, but also now extremely full after also eating a birthday cupcake AND a brownie. Ooooof.

We got up the next morning and I headed out for a quick pre-long run run. I wanted to get about 16 miles in but Kyle didn’t fancy running that long so we worked out if I ran 3ish miles beforehand and then we ran to Southsea together that should be perfect.

The first 3.3 miles were quite hilly around Clanfield and it was spitting a little but otherwise it went quickly. I then “picked up” Kyle and we headed on the road to Southsea. I’ve run a lot of this route before when I ran to Fareham from Kyle’s, but as we got to Cosham we then had to veer off towards Portsmouth.

It’s quite a hilly route – one particularly hill in Widley was one of those grit teeth head down kind of hills but otherwise it was fine. It was nice to run with Kyle and chat and relax into it. Though the wind seemed to be against us the entire way. I had to briefly stop at a petrol station to buy a water, which I almost downed the entirety of standing in the queue! Must have been all that salty food from the night before.

We eventually got to Southsea where we finished the run at the Parade Tearooms, ready to meet Kyle’s mum and brother, Zack, for brunch (well, more like lunch as it was now past midday!). 16 miles for me, 12.5 miles for Kyle. Solid running! Kyle’s longest run since the marathon in December so he smashed it. Though he was a little pooped afterwards (I mean, so was I of course!).

We’d been to the Parade Tearooms last weekend and obviously loved it so much we wanted to go back. My stomach wasn’t really knowing what it fancied and wasn’t hungry at all as we stood waiting for a table (it’s very popular at the weekend). But I knew I would be hungry soon so I never make the mistake to reject food!

I decided on the Jayne Salad again because it was so epic and I thought that the combination of good nutritious salad, carbs and protein would be ideal post run. I also ordered a pot of tea, which is something I crave after a winter long run.

The salad did not disappoint. If anything it was larger than last time – if that’s even possible! I also ordered the chicken to go with it (an added extra) which they’d forgotten. To be fair, it didn’t look like ANYTHING more could be added to the ginormous portion, but out came a separate little bowl with the forgotten chicken. Unbelievable.

And yes, I did polish it all off. It took me some time but I powered through it like the warrior I am 😉

My stomach was pretty jam packed full of salad and I wasn’t really fancying cake (SHOCKING I KNOW). I decided to employ some self-control and avoid the cake while I wasn’t in the mood (though I did regret this later in the day). After last night’s epic feast of food, sometimes you need a little bit of health (and a break for my bank account)!

So a solid weekend. I’m feeling in the groove of marathon training again!

What do you crave after a long run?

How many parkruns have you done?

Do you bring cakes for your different parkrun milestones?

Southsea parkrun, my kinda salad and back to long running

This weekend, though not entirely as I had planned, was a good one!

Friday night I stayed at Kyle’s and we decided to give Southsea parkrun a spin as Kyle had never done it before and there was a tearoom nearby we had been meaning to go to for ages.

It was, as I’m sure the rest of the UK was aware, very cold Saturday morning. But happily very sunny and not that windy – not bad conditions for a coastal parkrun. We decided to park about a mile away so we could have a gentle warm-up beforehand. Not that it warmed us up much at all! By the time we arrived at the start we were still cold.

We stood at the start and listening to the pre-run briefing and heard what we already were aware of, having just run down the promenade. There were large patches of ice, both visible and black, around the start section (and consequentially the finish area as it’s a 1.5 mile out and back straight route). The event director implored everyone to do a “Michael Jackson Thriller style walk” at the start to avoid any slips and the marshals were stood on the main ice puddles to help.

My leg had felt good all week and I decided to see where I was at fitness-wise. I wasn’t going for a full on “ruin myself” style of run but I did want to push the pace a bit. Kyle was less keen to do a fast run so we decided to run separately. I had my Aftershokz ready and was feeling good.

We started and ran carefully through the icy bits – as everyone did – and then as we got to the clearer sections started to push the pace. I felt very much in control and happy at 7.15min/miles. I remember thinking how much I was enjoying the run. My legs felt strong, my breathing relaxed and the sun was shining. Asides from my hands being cold (I had to wear my thinner Nike gloves rather than my thick eGloves, which someone had recently nicked – story for another day), I was feeling good.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get my headphones to play my music but actually I really didn’t mind. I was happy to just listen to my breathing and the noises around me more clearly. We got to the turn around (1.5 miles) and this felt very quick to me. I was feeling goooood. It was nice to acknowledge that fact mid-run – rather than feel like “omg this is fast I want to die” kind of feelings I usually get during 5ks or 10ks.

At the turnaround I knew I could then look out for Kyle, who I assumed was taking it a bit easier so would be coming the other way. However as I continued to run the opposite way I couldn’t see him. As I got further down the line of people coming the other way and he still didn’t appear I realised he must be very close behind me. I tried to look behind me but couldn’t see him. It did help spur me on as I didn’t want him to overtake me (though in reality I wouldn’t have minded and this is a highly likely thing to happen in the future as he’s getting stronger and stronger).

I ran with another guy for a bit until, as I felt my speed increase, I managed to push on ahead. I also passed two females. I thought there was another one ahead so I tried not to get too excited and lose my focus (and controlled breathing). I haven’t been a first female in a while. I finished strong with 21:29, my fastest parkrun since October! Turns out I was first female as well, which was a nice bonus. And a royal flush negative split!

Kyle finished 21:34, very close behind me. A solid run for the two of us. We then jogged gently back to the car. And though there was a huge temptation to go to the Tenth Hole for brunch (as we were parked just outside) we drove the two miles or so down the road to the Parade Tearooms. Though the Tenth Hole is brilliant (those cakes!), I’ve been there quite a few times and we really wanted to try this other tearoom.

I pride myself in doing my research before I go somewhere for food and I’m so glad I did. Though I was tempted by the usual full English breakfast (which Kyle went for – with extra toast) I instead went for the Jayne Salad. Yes, a salad. Yes, a salad on a cold morning. But hear me out. This was no ordinary salad. I joked to Kyle saying this shouldn’t be called the Jayne Salad it should be called the ANNA Salad. The portion size was right up my street!

Piled high (to the point it was actually tricky to eat) with salad, roasted baby potatoes, coleslaw, chicken, bacon, cheese, beetroot… it was GINORMOUS. And exactly the kind of salad I would make if I was making it myself.

It took me ages to eat and I can happily say I was stuffed by the end (yes I ate it all – I read a review on Trip Advisor that someone took half home. Wow, way to go Anna you pig).

Kyle thoroughly enjoyed his fry up – quality over quantity (whereas the Harvester breakfast is very much quantity over quality). And of course we had to take two slices of cake (well, traybake) home with us.

I genuinely stood in the queue having a mare of a time trying to decide what to order. The tiffin? The salted caramel shortbread? The “junk yard” cheesecake? The Crunchie cheesecake? The fudge cake? The Bakewell slice? I almost had a breakdown.

In the end I went for the tiffin. A giant triangle slab. Kyle went for an equally large slice of the salted caramel pretzel shortbread. We took them home to give our stomachs time.

I won’t lie. All I needed was the time it took to bathe and get dressed for me to be ready to eat the tiffin in one with a cup of tea. Hollow legs… human dustbin… greedy. All of the above. It was DELICIOUS. Caramelly, chocolaty, full of raisins and biscuit… so flipping good.

That evening I was supposed to go to my friend’s hen party and see Dreamboyz (like Chippendales I believe…) but my mum needed me to stay in and help her as her left hand is basically useless after her accident (she’s left handed) and my dad wasn’t going to be in. It was a shame to miss the hen do but I appreciated a quiet evening in with my mum instead.

At least it meant I got a solid night’s sleep and could crack on with my long run in the morning without feeling hung over. A silver lining at least! I headed out with the intention to run 10 miles but as I got going I realised I felt good and if it continued that way I’d do 12. I’m lucky to have good routes around me that I can shortern or lengthen my route as I go.

As I got on to the seafront promenade at Hill Head, away with the fairies listening to a podcast, I didn’t see the four very familiar dogs and my parents suddenly appear in front of me. Alfie went a bit mental suddenly seeing me, bless him. I stopped and chatted briefly before heading on – Alfie tried to join but my parents managed to wrestle him away.

So the 12 miles went really well. My leg felt fine. Only my endurance struggled I think, but that’ll come back in time. The weather was perfect. Cold but still. I felt very happy and (god I hate this word) blessed to be running again.

How was your weekend?

Do you ever order a salad?

What’s your favourite tray bake?

Reading parkrun and the Stubbington 10k

When I did the New York Marathon in November I stayed with a bunch of girls who were just lovely. It was all arranged by Charlie, from The Runner Beans, and we had a fantastic time. Happily we’ve since kept in touch.

One of the girls, Cortney, was coming over from her home in Canada to visit so I headed up to Reading to do a little meet-up with a few of the girls. parkrun, brunch and friends – Saturday goals right there! I drove up straight from work on the Friday evening.

That evening we had a lovely girlie night at Charlie’s. Emma (from Nanny on the Run) made a delicious shepherd’s pie with a sweet potato topping. Daaamn it was good.

And we followed that with the less healthy but equally tasty Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (three different kinds! Be still my beating heart. I was a fan of the B&J’s Salted Caramel topped tub but not so huge a fan of the vegan Brownie one).

We chatted, we chilled, we ate and we watched the ever good When Harry Met Sally. It was lovely to see the girls again and properly catch-up.

The next morning we headed to the Reading parkrun. I had been tempted to run when I thought we were going to a different parkrun that I hadn’t done before (Woodley parkrun)…. but as I’d done Reading before (it was my ‘R’) and my calf was still not brilliant, I thought it best to play it safe and volunteer. Charlie was also volunteering and not running due to an injury as well. So I didn’t feel like I was missing out too much.

I was also quite chuffed because I’d been assigned the role of barcode scanner. I’ve never done that job at parkrun and was keen to tick another role off my list! I was also very chuffed for Cortney because it would be her first ever parkrun. Exciting times!

We arrived and ‘signed in’ to our posts. Cortney and Emma headed off to the start and Charlie and I got into our positions.

I was a little sad to be missing out but the other parkrun volunteers were so friendly and chatty that the time flew by and suddenly I was needed to scan the barcodes. It was MANIC. There were three of us scanning and it almost felt never-ending. Lots of people were super friendly and thanked me for my time or chatted to me but some people silently handed me the barcodes or, in a couple of instances, just pointed to their shoe making zero effort. I thought that was a little rude if I’m honest.

Some people asked how they’d done… I’ve no idea! I politely told them they’d find out later in the email. And some people, despite standing in the barcode scanning queue for a lengthy period of time still arrived at me expectantly but without anything prepared. It was quite an interesting experience it must be said. Eventually the buzz died down and I was able to relax a bit. Whew!

A lovely blog reader came and introduced herself to me. It honestly made my morning to hear about her running achievements and goals and that I’d had a little influence on it. I felt very touched. Sometimes it can feel like you’re writing into a void and no one is really listening but to hear from someone I don’t know who does read my random ramblings is just the loveliest thing.

Cortney and Emma did really well and it sounded like they both enjoyed it. Then we headed off for the essential refuel. Volunteering is hard work too! We went to Cafe Yolk, which is a small but very cute little cafe in Reading.

Unsurprisingly I ordered the full English, while the other three girls ordered avocado and eggs on toast. Probably the far healthier option but I’m fairly stuck in my ways and adore a fry-up. It was a rather posh looking fry-up so at least there’s that…

Then we headed for breakfast pudding of course. We originally went to one spot but their cake selection was not up to our high standards and so we headed next door to The Flowering Teapot instead. Now let me tell you, they were fantastic!

All homemade cakes, homemade bread… the whole shabang. The guy behind the counter was so helpful and friendly. Emma asked if there were any vegan cakes and he said there was a carrot cake being finished in the back so we waited for that (the owner who was finishing it said she’d be super quick for us which was lovely). While we waited the guy cut us a bit of the millionaire shortbread to nibble on. I mean, how good is that?

I went for the millionaire shortbread in the end because it was so good. We took our cakes and had a cup of tea at Charlie’s with them. A lovely way to end a lovely meet up!

The next day was the Stubbington 10k. This race literally runs past my house. It starts about a 5 minute walk up the road, and finishes about 15 minutes walk away so it’s super local and convenient. Sadly though I continued to be sensible and decided not to run. However, Kyle was.

He’s never run an official 10k race so I was quite excited for him. I detest 10ks so realistically I wasn’t too sad to miss the race but I was sad not to be running with Kyle and experiencing it with him. Instead, I would be walking to the 9k marker with my dad and Alfie in order to help cheer him. It would also be a nice walk for the three of us.

For whatever reason (probably entirely down to me being me) we thought the race started at 9.30am. I told Kyle he could easily leave the house at 9.15am and get to the start in enough time. My dad and I would need to leave just before 9am to walk the 2+ miles to the 9k marker, meaning we’d be there in time (9.35ish for Kyle to run past). Perfectly under control, nicely planned, we are amazing.

Except as my dad and me were 20 minutes up the road my mum rung to say the race actually started at 10am so Kyle and her were going to sit in a coffee shop for a bit to waste some time. Ah. Classic Anna.

This meant my dad and I were quite early and decided to go find our own coffee shop for a quick drink before heading to the spot. Not too bad considering – I mean, it’s not like we were late! That would have been a lot worse.

Around 10.20am the first runners started passing through and we cheered them on. I saw lots of friends, people I knew and people from my running club so it was good fun. However I do have silly panic moments where despite fully knowing these people I never seem to remember names!! Something about seeing people running just makes my mind go blank. Bit embarrassing but there we go.

Then Kyle ran past (I managed to remember his name ;-)). Then my dad and me quick marched to the finish to catch him afterwards. He’d done a fantastic time of 42:59 – just scraping under the 43 minute mark! Very jammy. And so fast! I remember for my first 10k I did 43:34. Clearly Kyle is going to be super fast in the future considering he hasn’t been running for long! He definitely has a lot more to give.

He mentioned he much prefers the shorter distances to the marathons. I can understand that (though I personally don’t have that preference, obviously). I think Kyle will do well in all distances but I think he’ll probably focus more on the shorter stuff.

Though I’m sad he doesn’t share the same marathon love I do, it does make it a little more interesting for us! I can happily support those shorter distances (I think I get the easier deal here hehe).

What distance do you prefer to race?

What parkrun volunteering role haven’t you done yet but would like to?

Do like to volunteer when you’re injured/not running?

New York, New York

New York, where do I even start? I’ll be doing the marathon recap soon, but for now I’ll just recap the days before, because they were pretty cool too.

So this trip was organised by the lovely Charlie (aka @TheRunnerBeans of blog and Insta fame). I’d briefly met her before and she seemed lovely but I’d not met the other girls who were going to be on the trip too. We’d “met” through social media and chatted via there but I hadn’t actually met them. We created a WhatsApp group and chatted there a bit more, but there was still a little bit of nervousness… would they like me? Would I get on with them? Was I cool enough? I needn’t have worried about whether the girls would be nice or not – Charlie, Anna, Elaine, Cortney, Steph and Emma were all just so lovely.On Friday morning my lovely dad drove me to the airport where I met with Emma, the only one who was one the same flight as me. I was SO pleased to have someone on the same flight who also needed to get to the same place on the other side as me because, let’s be honest, I’m a complete numpty and would probably get very lost on my own. Especially as I was trying to save some money and not just get a taxi from the airport to the AirBnb. And Emma was the nicest person – I’m so glad we met! 😀The flight was long (ehhh 8 hours) but we managed to zip so quickly through security in JFK and grab our bags super fast. This is almost unheard of for flights into the States – it usually takes forever! We then rushed to get the right train to the subway so we could get to the marathon expo that evening before it shut. We were very much pushing it as it was now 6pm and the last entry into the expo was 7pm! By the time we got to Penn Station we literally had to run (with our suitcases!) down the streets (in the rain!) to get there. It was epic – the only way to describe it. We got to the expo minutes before 7pm, saw Charlie who was meeting us there and dropped our suitcases with her while we raced in.We picked up our bibs and then picked up our finisher’s t-shirt (women sizes hurrah!). We could do the expo on Saturday (the next day) but we really wanted to make sure we got our bibs and that bit sorted in case any plans changed the next day or it was a faff to get back to.The expo was very quiet though so it was super fast to do everything we needed. We wandered round the merch area and I bought myself a vest. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the selection. I’m not a huge New Balance fan and the stuff wasn’t really my sort of thing. I’m really pleased with the vest but nothing else appealed. The expo itself was pretty cool though in this giant glass building.There were lots of stalls but we decided to head back out to Charlie as she was waiting and we were going to head to dinner with the other girls. It was very late to us at this point (New York was four hours apart at this point – the daylight savings would happen Sunday morning) but we were running on adrenaline and excitement. We met the other girls at 5 Napkin Burger, which was very cool indeed.I ordered chicken wings (had to be done!) and sweet potato fries and enjoyed finally chatting to the other girls, who had arrived at different times. The chicken wings were delicious of course.And then we headed to the Airbnb and could finally CHILL. It had been a very long day! The Airbnb was INCREDIBLE. It was a proper townhouse affair, with three stories and four bedrooms. It was really quite big. The downstairs was an open plan living room, dining room and kitchen, so it felt very social.

Charlie had given us all a little goodie bag of treats as well, which was just so lovely. We had a t-shirt with New York and the skyline stitched onto it, a hairband with New York Marathon 2018 written on it, a Nuun water bottle and some Nuun, some peanut butter M&M’s and some trail mix (something we don’t really get in the UK).It was a lovely welcome! Then we headed to bed and I fell asleep very quickly! Though we’d planned to have a lovely lie-in in the morning, jet lag had other ideas and most of us woke up very early. We had a quick little walk to the very local Dunkin Donuts and got a coffee and some of the mini bite-size doughnuts (I want to say munchkins?). Then we all got ready for a shake-out run that would take us to brunch.Anna, Charlie’s friend, is an amazing photographer and does lots of Charlie’s photos for her and was planning on taking photos for us during our trip. It was really quite cool. We’d get some get photos of us running in New York that weren’t blurred or just selfies, it was fantastic!I did feel a little self-conscious, but Anna was great and how could the photos not be good with the scenery being as beautiful as it was with the autumnal colours!We ran to Central Park which was, as you can imagine, just so beautiful and so packed full of other runners! If you weren’t a runner you’d really want to be after being surrounded by so many of them!In the end I ran about 5.5 miles, which was more than I probably would have done on my own and the day before a marathon but it was a gentle pace and my legs enjoyed the stretching out after all the travel. And then we arrived at brunch at P.J Clarke’s. Charlie had previously sent out an invite to any runners who wanted to join and I think there were about 30 of us in total! It was mental. But everyone was so nice and super excited about the marathon the next day.

I love in the above photo how I’m not even caring about the photo, I’m more interested in the menu

For brunch I had toast, ham, poached eggs, tomato and Emma’s unwanted sausages (always surround yourself with people who are willing to share of give up their food ;-)).Charlie and Zoe (@MilesFitter) had done a fantastic job of arranging the brunch and we even got hats to commemorate the occasion.Emma, Elaine and I headed off after brunch to go and do some sight-seeing and to go back to the Expo for another longer mosey about. We didn’t go back to get changed first as we couldn’t be bothered and it wasn’t that cold – well, in the sun it was lovely! So first stop was Levain Bakery for some of the best cookies in New York (or so we had been told…).They sold lots of cakes but the cookie flavours were choc chip and walnut, peanut butter, double choc chip and oat and rasin. Well I was in a quandary of what to order as I wasn’t sure about the addition of walnuts into a cookie… and none of the others really took my fancy. I asked the guy behind the counter and he fully recommended the choc chip and walnut as that’s what they’re famous for apparently. I decided to also order the oat and raisin because that’s always a good one, if a little boring sometimes.I ate the choc chip one then and there – WARM. Oh my god I actually cannot explain just how fantastic this cookie was. It was so melty and gooey in the middle with a firm and crispy outer shell. So soft, so warm, so tasty. It was huge, but that’s the only way I like baked goods so that worked out nicely 😉 It took all the power in the world not to run back to the counter and order 15 more. I decided to save my oat and raisin for later…the will power I showed honestly astounds me.

We had a quick little mosey around Trader Joe’s (bought myself some of their incredible Everything But the Bagel seasoning). I do love looking round foreign super markets! And then we headed off to Time Square.I mean, obviously we just had to be a little touristy and because I’d suddenly, in the last few months, become quite the M&M fan and they have the huge M&M World there. Strangely I’m not a fan of the original M&M’s but the peanut ones, the crispy ones, the caramel ones… basically all the non-original ones I love. And it’s something a bit weird and special between Kyle and me so I thought I’d treat us to some to share (I must share, I must share, I must share…).Well, I got so excited in the M&M pick ‘n’ mix bit (OMG ALL THE FLAVOURS!!) I ended up spending $26.10! Though I have to say, I was only disappointed that it hadn’t come to $26.20… Needless to say I had quite a bag of M&M’s to take away with me (let’s pretend I didn’t go to Target later and buy some Halloween themed M&M’s as well…). ANYWAY.Then we headed to the Expo again where we could spend a bit more time looking around the different stalls (all the tasters… mmmm). I got a cool waterproof cover for my phone at the Strava stand and bought myself a GU gel. I love the GU gels – so thick and tasty. The flavours are incredible. My favourites are the maple bacon (yes yes I know, weird) and the salted caramel. Literally heavenly. This time I went for the birthday cake flavour (we just don’t have birthday cake flavours in the UK so it had to be done!). I was really intrigued to see that you could buy big containers full of GU as well that you could partition into re-usable plastic pouches. What a great idea! Though it did sound a little messy to me..I checked out the AMAZING Six Star Medal as well. Oh I can’t wait to get mine next year (if all goes well!) after Chicago. It’s just so exciting to me. I then added my words of wisdom to the wall of post-it notes (Steve Way’s classic “Don’t be shit”).Then we headed back to finally shower and think about dinner. We all decided to just chill and get dinner in rather than venture out again. I tried to use UberEats but failed so found myself a nearby Mexican and decided to go for that (God I love Mexican food) while everyone else either got something taken away from a local pizza place (Patsy’s Pizzeria) or were making their own dinner (the luxury of an AirBnb!).I enjoyed a salad topped with chicken, pork, avocado, sour cream, rice, tortilla chips and guacamole. It was delicious! I followed that with the oat and raisin cookie (which I microwaved to get warm again). Omg so good. Not quite as good as the one I’d had earlier but still delicious.I actually wasn’t feeling that nervous about the marathon the next day which was WEIRD. I was excited and looking forward to it. I really had no plans how I’d run. If I wanted to go fast, I would, If I wanted to plod along and enjoy everything, I would. It felt very eerie being as calm as I was. But it felt good. At the end of the day, I’d done this before (15 times!) and all I could do was my best. Whatever that might be.I hadn’t had a niggle in ages, I felt in good shape, I’d had a solid amount of decent food and I’d be running round somewhere new, beautiful and amazing. I’d say I was pretty nicely set-up to have a good run.

Have you ever been to New York?

Are you an M&M fan? What’s your favourite flavour?

Do you prefer an AirBnb or a hotel?

Upton House parkrun and so much food

This weekend I managed to tick yet another parkrun letter off my parkrun Alphabet Challenge. I went to Upton House parkrun to get my U. It’s down in Poole, which is just over hour away from me. I few of us from my club decided to make a pilgrimage down there for some parkrun tourism and a spot of brunch.

On Saturday morning I got up at 6.20am to walk Alfie (a good test of seeing what the weather is like and how my leg felt). It was beautiful outside. Cold, but clear and still. Perfect running conditions. It was getting light as well which just makes me so happy. Spring is definitely on its way! Then I got myself together and drove to my friend’s Mike house so he could then drive the rest of the way.More chance of us actually arriving at the correct place that way, let’s be honest.
We did actually arrive a little too early at 8.15am. The others who we were meeting had arrived too so we sat, car side by side, in the car park (which is huge FYI and only a £1) keeping warm.Upton House parkrun is located in the Upton Country Park, a National Trust spot.It was such a lovely location and the sun was shining which made things very pleasant. There were toilets there as well so that was handy for a pre-parkrun wee.After the briefing, we headed to the start which was really narrow. Mike, Jim and I decided to move a bit closer to the front as it was so packed (not with the numbers of runners really, as there were only just under 300 people) but because the path was fairly narrow.We still had to wend our way around people when we started but after a few hundred metres it spaced out and we had enough room to pick up the pace a bit. Happily my leg felt fine and I just felt so happy to be running again.The course is one big loop, one smaller loop and then the first big loop again. I love this style of parkrun because it means you don’t get bored and having the break between the same two loops means it’s not as repetitive. It’s run on trails – a compacted stony trail which is great to run on.The route is very pretty and scenic. It starts within a woodland area then stretches out onto some grassland area where you run past some cows (within an enclosure) and then past a beautiful lake.It was lovely, really lovely. It’s mostly flat but there were a couple of undulations but really nothing crazy. In fact the start is very much downhill so you can gain some good speed.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Somers

Mike, Jim and I kept together as we ran and kept up the odd bit of conversation but I could feel that I’ve lost a lot of fitness. But to be honest, I don’t care because running without issue is my main goal right now. I could feel my hamstring crop up a little but I didn’t mind that as I’d rather it be my hamstring than calf as I know how to help my hamstring, whereas my calf has been a bit of a puzzle.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Somers

I slightly pulled ahead of the two fellas and stretched my legs a bit, everything still feeling reasonable. But as we hit the final hill to then head to the finish Jim stormed past me. Apparently he’d realised I wasn’t as strong on the hills and decided to use it to his advantage at the end. Crafty but fair play! I couldn’t have caught him if I’d have wanted to.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Somers

In the end I finished with 23:13 feeling very happy. All my bits and pieces felt fine and I’d gotten my U! The others all said the same thing: Upton House parkrun is a beautiful and friendly course. I really wish it was closer as honestly I’d do this one all the time if I could. I loved it. OK perhaps the good weather helped but it just seemed like such a great set-up with how the loops worked. I signed the guest book (another nice touch at a parkrun) and chatted to some of the local runners. I mentioned about the parkrun Alphabet Challenge and they were quite bemused. Clearly not a very well known thing perhaps!Then we headed to the tearoom literally a stone throw’s away and had a nice cup of coffee and a natter.Sadly the tea room didn’t do anything more elaborate than toast or cake for breakfast so Mike and me decided to hunt out something more substantial on the way back home. Brunch was definitely in order!

 

We found a Haskins Garden Centre not too far down the road with a fantastic restaurant serving a good selection of hot and cold breakfast material. We went for the “8 piece” breakfast (you could pick the items you wanted).I loved that they had black pudding (a weakness of mine) but the scrambled egg was rather rubbery and tasteless. But otherwise it was a very yummy and sustaining breakfast.A very lovely morning indeed. I spent the rest of the day doing some deep cleaning in the house. I was just in one of those moods where I needed to busy myself and expel a load of energy. I do quite enjoy cleaning so it was nice to just put some music on and do some cleaning that doesn’t get done that often (like cupboards and hard to reach places…with dogs it’s hard to keep everything pristine!)

That evening my parents and I went to the Chilworth Arms for dinner to celebrate my dad’s birthday which had been on the Wednesday. I always feel sorry for my dad because sharing his birthday with Valentine’s Day always makes going out for a nice meal a bit tricky as everyone else seems to be doing that too and you usually get some generic set menus themed around it, which I always find a bit lame. And plus, because my parents are so disgustingly in love, my dad likes to treat my mum so really he doesn’t get the sole attention he deserves.
I hadn’t eaten since the earlier brunch (though it had been a large brunch of course) I was now really ready for food. Though my parents are still on the Slimming World wagon they decided to just enjoy a nice meal out without worrying too much about Syns and things like that. So we ordered a baked Camembert and a “grazing” sharing platter, which had lots of different meaty bits and pieces like chicken, lamb koftas, chorizo and pulled pork croquettes.

It was all so tasty. And happily the grazing platter had more than two of most things (food anxiety of sharing swerved…ha). I probably ate about 3/4 of the Camembert though. My stomach knows no bounds clearly as I was then very much ready for the main. Although I was initially tempted by the spit-roasted chicken I decided to step out of my standard food choice box and order something different. I went for the pan-friend venison and it was delicious. The gravy (jus? sauce?) was SO good.

A nice change! I should do this more often… Though saying that, I chose a different pudding than I’d have normally gone for too. Instead of being tempted by the brownie (always a safe tho delicious choice for me) I decided on having the apple and berry crumble (with ice cream not custard tho). It was fantastic!

My dad went for something a bit more extravagant with the chocolate orange bomb. Even though this sounded delicious, I really can’t stand chocolate orange together. It came out and the waitress poured molten chocolate sauce over the chocolate sphere thing. It eventually collapsed and melted. It was rather impressive. It left a few big chocolate chunks in a bowl of what looked like chocolate soup. My dad loved it for all of about three spoonful until it started to get sickly and too much. I was so impressed with him. In another life it seems this was the man who was able to eat entire packets of chocolate biscuits. He said he didn’t want to carry on eating it in fear that it would put him off chocolate forever ha.

The next morning I was supposed to run a few miles with Mike. We had both said we’d confirm for definite before 9am if we both fancied it as he had a slightly niggling hamstring and I wasn’t sure how everything for me would feel post-parkrun. Sadly Mike bailed as his hamstring wasn’t good. I’d slept badly that night – you know when you wake up mid-sleep and stare at the ceiling for an hour? Yeah that’s fun. So I was quite glad to roll back over and have a more lazy morning, rather than being on a timescale to get somewhere to meet someone.

In the end I headed out around 9.30am. I didn’t know how far I’d go as I didn’t want to stress my leg out. In the end I decided around 4 miles was good. My hamstring didn’t feel amazing, but it didn’t get worse. My calf felt fine. I’m happy with that outcome because I know how to help my hamstring whereas for my calf I’m literally in the dark. The hamstring is something I’ve had to deal with for a while and know what stretches and exercises to do and trigger points to work on. I just need to not aggravate it too much to mean I need to take a lot of time off to let it calm down, if that makes sense. Trying to keep it manageable for the moment.I went to the gym afterwards to do a bit of what I call “topping up” cardio as I want to maintain a level of fitness for any long runs. It also helps my sanity a bit – it’s standard ‘Anna Behaviour’ to over-worry about things like upcoming marathons, so doing this sort of thing calms those inner demons. Especially when I compare myself to other people doing the same marathon or marathons around the same time. Plus as I only let myself watch Peaky Blinders on the cross-trainer at the gym (to keep me from despising that machine and have positive connotations towards it) it was a fun 50 minutes.

So other than some more cleaning/sorting and usual jobs I needed to do, my Sunday was pretty chilled and relaxing.

Do you have any standard food orders you make at a restaurant?

Have you ever done a parkrun that you wish was closer to where you live?

Do you watch anything when you use a cardio machine at the gym?