Walsall Arboretum parkrun, 18 miles and all the food

Saturday morning saw me going to the Walsall Arboretum parkrun with fellow Marathon Talk fan and runner James, who lives in Birmingham. It’s not local to me at all as I live near Southampton so it was quite the parkrun tourism.Sadly I do already have a W (Winchester) but I love a bit of tourism regardless and it was supposed to be nice and flat and not too far from where I was staying. James and I got there at 8.30am which felt quite early but actually worked out well because it was about a 1km walk to the start area and we both needed a wee beforehand.
The Walsall Arboretum is a beautiful park. There’s a large pond, lots of trees and grass, a little river flowing over some picturesque rocks and just a pleasant atmosphere. It was lovely. There’s a little cafe as well with a loo so that was handy. Apparently Walsall rarely gets called beautiful but from what I could see, it was lovely.It was their sixth birthday so there were a few fancy dresses and a good turn out of people.The run director spent some time thanking everyone and talking about how far they’d come and then the Mayor of Walsall said a few words – quite cool that he was there (tho he wasn’t running). It was really a very friendly and lovely parkrun.
I hadn’t really planned how I was going to run. I set myself a range of between 22 and 24 minutes, thinking that was probably about right. I had my music and was just going to see how it went without too much stress.
As we started my legs felt a little sluggish but then I found my rhythm and got into it. And I really got into it. My legs just seemed to go, go, go. The course was wide enough to easily overtake people and not be hemmed in (where I started anyway) and it was a slight downhill so this worked nicely.

The course is three laps, but it didn’t feel like too much of a drag that some three lappers can because it was split out into two sections really. The first section goes around the lake/pond and then the second runs up a path alongside the river and then comes back down on the other side. So you can see runners on the other side, which is always nice and distracting. (Photos from the Facebook page).The marshals were super friendly, cheering us along – one of them even holding their parkrun birthday cake for the runners to see. It looked great! I saw James ahead near the front going super fast. His training has been awesome (he’s also doing the Brighton Marathon). But then I just focused on the music and getting my little legs turning over as fast as I could.I was running alongside a few other guys and this helped me to cling on to the speed. I looked at my watch and noticed I was fully sub-7 minute pace and this both shocked me and gave me a huge confidence boost.

I finished, thought I stopped my walk and headed to see James (who had finished in the ridiculously fast time of 18:23!). Annoyingly I didn’t realise I hadn’t actually stopped my watch so had no idea what my time was! I thought it might be around 21 minutes but would have to wait until the email/text to come through to be certain. I was really happy anyway as it felt like a solid effort of a run and I’d experience no calf or hamstring niggles. Hurrah!My time came through later as 20:30!! I am over the moon! I cannot believe I managed to get such a speedy (for me) time. James smashed his PB as well by like over 20 seconds. But both of us were concerned about the course being short as James only got 3 miles on his watch and I wasn’t certain at all because I hadn’t stopped my watch, though he checked other people’s results on Strava and it seemed to be fairly accurate – and I guess the trees didn’t help with the satellites. Well, whatever I definitely got a sub 21 minute parkrun (and James definitely got a PB as it was such a significant improvement). Very happy to see the 20s again, despite my rubbish training lately.

I also got to use my brand new very swanky barcode wristband.Very handy and I love the colour. No more barcode confusions for me…

For lunch we decided to go for something unhealthy and entirely delicious at the Original Patty Man burger place (OPM). We got there quite early and thankfully beat the rush – as we were ordering a queue had started to build up outside!

I went for the bacon cheeseburger with a side of cheesy gravy fires. Omgaawwwd it was so good. But extremely messy.In true Anna fashion though it didn’t leave me stuffed and as James and I had spotted a “dessert lounge” called Pirlo’s as we walked to the restaurant we knew exactly what was going to happen next…

We both looked at the menu and I instantly spotted the biggest sundae option – the mega sundae. Happily James has a similar appetite to me and had seen the same one. When we ordered and the server realised we didn’t want one to share hewarned us of its size… we were like, “pfffft, you clearly don’t know our capabilities”.

The sundae came with chocolate, strawberry and Ferrero Rocher ice cream (which I swapped for salted caramel), lashings of Nutella, cream, brownie and Kind chocolate chunks.Oh my god it was good. It was enormous but so much fun to eat. Literally chocolate everywhere. I’m changing my opinion on Nutella. I used to be like “meh I don’t care for it” but now I seem to be realising what the fuss is about.

We went home STUFFED. Full to the brim. Luckily we didn’t have much else planned except for James’ running club awards night (where there was a buffet…ahaha). There was a quiz which our team did spectacularly badly in (we came last) but was good fun. I did feel fairly sick though throughout the evening…but a couple of buffet sandwiches and some chicken nuggets helped calm my tummy 😉

The next morning, as James and I are both training for Brighton, we’d planned a long run. James was going to do some tempo miles while I ran an easy 18 (18 miles is NEVER easy but you know what I mean). I was going to follow James’ route but he’d run back to me after his tempo parts (he’d get a solid 20 miles). He’s really good at training, like he does all the proper speed work, easy runs and tempo sand runs like 70 miles a week. Amazing amazing. I wish I could run as much as him but such is life. He’s good to hit up for advice though because he knows his stuff.

My tummy didn’t feel great it must be said. But as we started running it calmed down and I felt surprisingly good. My legs felt fine and I felt in the zone and on it already. James didn’t feel quite as good and decided to just stick with me for the run rather than do his extra tempo miles. I thought that was probably a sensible decision. Our greed got the better of us the day before! Clearly I’m far better than him at over-consumption of food and then running 😉

We ran about four miles to the canals and then ran along them for most of the run. It was lovely and flat and nice underfoot. I obviously had no idea where we were or where we were going but it was nice to not have to think about the route and to just follow someone else.My dad grew up in Birmingham and one of my granddads lives in Stoke-On-Trent, not too far away, so when I was a child we’d often drive to Stoke and past Birmingham and I’d always remember my dad telling me about “Spaghetti Junction” – with all it’s crazy bridges and roads going over each other. James’ route went underneath the junction so I had to stop and get a few pics.Even though you probably couldn’t describe it as scenic, it was strangely quite impressive and looked very cool.It was quite surreal to be running under roads that my parents used to drive us over back in the day. Oh the nostalgia.The run carried on without any issues for me (asides from a wild wee in a rather open but empty area…the fear was real). I felt bad for James though because his tummy really wasn’t feeling great. But he pushed through. Our pace was fairly easy between 8.20-8.40s and I just felt like I was gliding along. I did get a weird overwhelming sense of tiredness around 12 miles and felt myself lagging a bit but then I managed to pepper myself up a bit and got back into the zone.

18 miles seemed to fly by. The route and company definitely helped it stop being a slog. The weather was wonderful. Sunny and cool, though by 15 miles the two of us were hot and started talking about cold beverages…We stopped at a convenience shop to grab a water which helped!I am SO pleased. SO so pleased that this long run went well. Big thanks to James for pulling me along and finding a really decent route!

So Brighton seems to be no longer in contention. I just hope that I continue to pootle along as I am. Fingers crossed!

Have you ever been to Birmingham?

What’s your favourite ice cream flavour?

Do you have any weird nostalgias?

Food, fitness and finally RUNNING

I don’t think I’ve ever woken up on a Saturday and looked forward to Monday morning at work before. This is very strange to me! I mean, I didn’t hate my last job or dread going in but I never felt the excitement and genuine interest that I currently feel. Long may this last!

As I said, my posts are a bit few and far between right now as I find my new schedule and get my life in order…but for today’s post I’ll recap the weekend as it was a pretty good one!

I spent Friday night with my parents and had a very much needed long sleep and lazy morning with them on Saturday morning, walking the dogs down the beach and catching up. They wanted to know how my new job had gone and all that jazz. Though I obviously missed going to parkrun it was really nice to spend this rare Saturday morning with them for once.

A bit later I headed to the gym and had a really good session, if I do say so myself. I came up with a circuit-style workout that I did four times, and it definitely got the blood pumping and the endorphins racing.

  • 5 minutes on the rowing machine
  • 20x step ups
  • 20x lunges (w/barbell)
  • 20x squats and barbell overhead raise
  • 20x Swiss ball hamstring curls
  • 20x Swiss ball jackknives
  • 20x bench bunny hops

I then followed this with 25 minutes on the elliptical machine watching Iron Man 2. I’ve seen barely any of the Marvel films so I’m using my cross training time to catch up. So far I’ve done Iron Man and half of Iron Man 2 – only 9,000 more films to go 😉

That evening I headed out for another burger and ice cream-full evening with Andy. This time we were testing out 7Bone Burger Co., which is another Southampton burger-based restaurant (I believe there are a few around the place). This was a bit more low-key but very busy. It was literally packed! We luckily found a nice table and surveyed the menu.

I chose the Prince Charles is Overrated burger which came with a 10oz beef patty, bacon, cheese, lettuce, pickles and dirty spread (mayo-based yumminess sauce). I ordered frickles to come with it (fried pickles – ABSOLUTE dream).

And I think Andy ordered the Ronald’s Revenge (mustard, double cheese, fried onions) and chilli cheese fries. We also shared some halloumi fries.

So comparing these burgers with the burgers from last week at The Rockstone… I can say that the burgers themselves were better at The Rockstone – a bit more “meaty” and substantial. The 7Bone Burgers disappeared very easily and very quickly. However, the meal itself was better at 7Bone because of the entire package. The frickles and the halloumi fries were literally heaven.

Andy kindly shared his fries with me and they were AMAZING. I mean, I’m not really a processed cheese fan but my God these were another level.

We let things settle before walking over to the handily located Sprinkles for a deja vu moment of finishing off the meal with ice cream again. This time I decided not to go for the behemoth sundae that I went for last time and stuck to a slightly more modest pudding in a jar.

I had the Guilty Pleasure, which contained gelato, melted chocolate, strawberries, brownie bits and caramel popcorn. Actually it was a little bit of a disappointment as quite a chunk of the jar was just cream and strawberries. I got major food envy of Andy’s jar which contained freshly baked cookie bits. Ah well, you live and learn.

Ooooof, what a meal! I was stuffed (again). Enough burgers and ice cream now for a while please!

The next morning I headed out for my first “long run” in a while. I’d run twice in the week to good results – minimal knee discomfort and nothing getting worse post run. So I decided to up the ante and go for the big one. SIX MILES. Jesus, calm me down. Six whole miles. Only five weeks to the marathon… PANIC.

Not quite. I’ve been here before where I’ve been injured and my well-laid marathon plans have been scuppered. So I’m familiar with this process. Inverse taper to the big day is the way forward. The only thing that will hold me back is if my knee decides to not play ball.

I’m quietly confident at the moment though as it felt pretty good during the six miles. The first mile was a bit uncomfortable but then it was absolutely fine. I was tempted to go further but thought NO ANNA, don’t over-do it. Keep calm and level-headed and just build those miles up slowly again until the big day.

What really made me happy was that I felt very comfortable running at a good pace. I don’t appear to have lost any major fitness in terms of cardiovascular-ness (technical term there). I just need my body to get used to the impact and pounding of running on pavements again. The elliptical machine is all well and good keeping my fitness in tune but it does nothing for allowing the ligaments etc. to adjust to that ground force.

After the six miles I headed quickly to the gym to top this up with 35 minutes on the elliptical machine to kind of replicate a longer run. I felt a bit weird turning up to the gym already sweaty but hey ho. Needs must. Then it was a quick dash home, shower and head to my parents to go over on the ferry to Gunwharf for a mosey round the shops and then a walk into Southsea for lunch.The Southsea kite festival was going on which was really cool as well. So many crazy kites!SouthseaI love the photo of the man behind me wearing his very cool purple sparkly cowboy hat.

We then found the delightful Algarve Grill restaurant and had Portuguese-style tapas. Oh god, ALL THE FOOD.I was actually looking for something a bit lighter after the big meal the night before… but these things happen. I had sardines, meatballs, chicken skewers, these meat breaded pouch things and a pork dish (pork pieces cooked in a very delicious butter sauce). I was STUFFED. Happily we had quite a walk to get back to the car (all the way to Gunwharf, then over on the ferry and then to the carpark from there) so it had time to go down! Though I was shattered by the time we finally got back to the car. I’d done almost 30,000 steps!

Whew, that was a big post! Hopefully going to get back into some regular posting so watch this space 😉

How was your weekend?

What’s your favourite burger side?

What’s your favourite Marvel film, if you have one? I really like Thor but I’ve heard Captain America is really good.

On to new things…

So I finished my last day at work last Wednesday. It was definitely a bittersweet. I’ve worked there for over five and a half years. I remember joining and being this timid, terrified girl…unsure of everything, so quiet and afraid. I walked out of there on Wednesday confident, self-assured and ready for my next challenge. I’ll miss so many of the people I worked with but I’m looking forward to working with a new bunch of people and hopefully making some friends!

I had Thursday and Friday off, which was just amazing. I haven’t had a proper couple of days where I literally have nothing planned for ages. I decided to do a day of sorting schizz out in the spirit of new beginnings and all that. I also agreed to help my parents sort out their garage and under-the-stairs cupboard (a blackhole for shoes, bags and coats).

My dad took off the Friday as well and hired a skip which helped the situation. I mean, I love my parents but they just seemed to hoard so much junk. I’m not even joking when I say we took FOUR black bags of shoes to charity. Who has time to wear that many shoes?? And their garage is just full of random rubbish and charity-shop worthy items that for some reason my parents thought to keep hold of. NO ONE NEEDS THREE TOOLKITS. This is probably one of the main reasons I’m not a sentimental person when it comes to physical things and mementos. There are few items I’m irrationally attached to. All about that minimalist lifestyle (leggings aside of course. You can NEVER have too many leggings. Honest).

Found some rather hilarious old photos of my sister, mum and I.

AnnaTheApple childI mean, those hair styles…

As I was still not running it meant I could have some lovely lie-ins and then go to the gym at a more reasonable time than I usually would. I was given an Amazon gift voucher from work as part of my leaving present so I decided to buy and download some movies I’ve been wanting to see so I could make time on the elliptical machine far more bearable.

Cardio entertainmentI’ve got through Get Out (really creepy but really good) and the Lego Batman Movie (very funny). It’s actually a really good way to stay motivated on that god-awful machine. It also makes me keen to get back on it as I’ll only allow myself to watch these movies on the elliptical machine. Happy days…

On Friday night I went out to a fantastic burger place for some food. I’d heard that The Rockstone pub in Southampton literally did the best burgers around and so was fairly excited to go and eat stupid amounts of food, and of course spend time with good company.

I ordered the “BBCK” burger which was a 10oz burger with Brie, streaky bacon and a cranberry chutney. I also upgraded my fries to bacon dust fries. I mean, seriously.

The Rockstone BurgerMy partner in crime ordered the “Ban Ki-Mmm” which had Korean pork belly amongst other treats on top. I did get a little food envy on seeing his but mine was SO tasty it was only very brief. He upgraded to sweet potato fries. I have to say, usually I’m not a huge burger fan (I prefer more toppings/protein to carb ratio…), but this was heavenly.

We were both more than happy (and fairly full) on finishing our burgers. By the way, they were impossible to pick up. I did try but failed miserably. 10/10 for effort…not so much for getting covered in sticky cranberry-ness. Though we were full we decided to forgo the pudding on offer at The Rockstone and instead go to the handily located Sprinkles just down the road. Just a small pudding, eh? 😉

Sprinkles sundaeI got a cookie dough based sundae (zomggggggg) and he got a baked skillet cookie with ice cream. Mine contained hot cookie dough at the bottom, chocolate and vanilla ice cream and vanilla gelato as well as cookie pieces and molten white chocolate and regular chocolate drizzled on top. Dear god it was good. I couldn’t quite finish it all. For once my stomach said no. But I gave it my best stab! I prioritised the best bits!

So my time off was pretty damn good. I did manage two miles on Sunday to test the leg out… it felt OK but I’m not entirely convinced. More updates on that soon. Things are going pretty well right now (let’s ignore the small car accident I had Tuesday morning *sighs*, again more on that another time!)

My blogging is going to be a bit off-routine for a bit while I find my footing in my new job and adjusting to a new routine. But in the words of Lego, EVERYTHING IS AWESOME

What’s your ideal burger?

What’s your ideal sundae?

If you use cardio machines, how do you motivate yourself to stay on them?