Rough Runner and rough running

Last weekend was quite the busy one.

Through work, I was signed up to do Rough Runner 10k as Team Wiggle. Rough Runner is an obstacle course run where there are about 10 obstacles for the 10k and you basically just run to each one. You don’t have to do them if you don’t want to (one of our team members had a bad shoulder so avoided a few of them) and there are no penalties (like in Spartan for example where you have to do burpees).The one we were doing was located somewhere near Bristol (I’m hazy with where exactly). Kyle, a fellow Wiggler Steph and I drove up together in the delightful downpour and got there for 9.30am. We met up with the other team members (also found out one of the girls had only just woken up and would therefore not be joining…lol) and then cowered under one of the sponsor tents as much out of the rain and cold as we could.I was not really feeling it if I’m honest. I hate being cold. Probably more than I hate being hungry – and this is saying something. I think it goes cold, hunger, tiredness in order of what I detest the most. I could feel myself being quite grumpy and just wanted to either go home or get started. I was wearing leggings (I tend to for obstacle course runs just as a bit of protection as you always end up clambering around on the floor) but just a vest top. It was supposed to be about 18 degrees and while it didn’t feel that cold, the wind and rain made that temperature really hard to believe.Eventually we went into a tent and watched a safety video. As we came out again into the open and headed to do the warm-up we were pleasantly surprised that the rain had stopped and it actually felt quite nice. The warm-up itself was quite amusing as Kyle got randomly picked and had to run round and high-five everyone in our wave (a good-70 people) and then our wave was named Team Kyle (throughout the actual run quite a few people remembered this and shouted “go team Kyle!” which was quite funny).The obstacles weren’t ridiculously difficult (like Tough Mudder which you’d probably need a good amount of strength and training and your team’s help) but it did require a good balance and generally being a bit lighter helped… I managed to fare quite well on the obstacles (I’ve done it before so I had that advantage too) but for some of the taller chaps on the team (*cough* Kyle) it was a bit tough. I did find it immensely amusing that I managed to do the ring swings (like monkey bars but basically dangling rings – think Gladiators) and two very muscly heavy-set guys failed miserably. It was a moment of female pride I must say 😉It was good fun in the end, especially as the sun soon came out.Kyle and I then headed to meet up with my Bristolian friends, Kate and Jay, for an epic refuel. A giant Lebanese meat platter in a lovely place called Lona Grill House.So much food and yet we managed to make quite the dent! Then we headed home quite tired and quite full. It was lovely to see them both, as always, and to catch up.Sunday morning I reluctantly (really reluctantly) got up and headed out for a long run. There’s nothing like hearing the rain and wind battering against the window to make you really not want to run. But I was determined not to be a wuss. It wasn’t that cold (14 degrees?) and I’d run in rain before. Come on now, Anna.

I put on a t-shirt, shorts and compression socks and headed out to do 16 miles. Straight away I was soaked and the wind was quite strong. I was immediately cold. My hands were freezing. After the first mile I still wasn’t warm. I seriously contemplated heading back home to put on a long sleeve top and getting my gloves. But I couldn’t be bothered. The thought of getting home, taking off my wet trainers, going upstairs etc etc. Urgh just get on with the run. The quicker I plough on the sooner I finish.

I was truly miserable running. The first part of the run (1-3 miles) is along the main road and I got tired of dodging out of the way of puddles and cars splashing me. I was soaked through so really this was pointless effort. My legs felt heavy, I felt drained and I was fully grumpy. I really debated just going home. My mum had said to me just before I left that I was mad going out and that she’d pick me up if I needed to at any time. That was a strong temptation in my mind.

I decided I had a six mile route I could easily do as a loop to get home. But as I got to the point I would turn back home I decided to just push on a bit further. I was now running along the coast and happily the wind was behind me, pushing me along. OK this was a bit better.

“How about 10 miles?” I bargained with myself. OK 10 miles is a good run. But as I got to that point where I’d turn home I decided to just woman up and do the damn run. I was out there and might as well. But I would do 15 miles instead of adding the little extra bit on to get my 16. That was a decent compromise that weirdly lightened my mind to the run. Now I was at the point of no return. Just get home. Just get home.I felt like I crawled towards the end of the run. Literally like my feet wouldn’t move faster. Bless my mum, she made me a lovely cup of tea straight away. I felt a bit emotionally spent weirdly as the whole run had felt like one big negotiation with myself. I had an amazing hot shower and felt miles better, but fairly exhausted. Just drained. It was not a good run at all! Nothing like the amazing long run from the weekend before. I’ve got to remember how much these things add up. I’m not a machine and almost 20 miles will take it out of me for the week!

But the rest of the day was lovely. I chilled watching Beauty and the Beast (the live action version, which I’ve never seen) and enjoyed a huge roast dinner and a slice of an amazing homemade chocolate cake.It was delicious! Chocolate buttercream, chocolate sponge, Matchsticks and Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers round the edge.I felt nicely topped up. The memory of the terrible long run was washed from my mind. Nothing like cake and good company to help 😉

What’;s your favourite roast dinner?

If you had to be cold, tired or hungry which would you choose?

Do you run when it’s raining?

When I’m not running I’m usually eating…

It’s amazing how quickly you can forget how hot it felt during the summer. Autumn has well and truly hit us with dark mornings, cold winds and hammering rain.

I live fairly near the sea so I often get woken up by fog horns going off. They’re not hugely loud or abrasive sounds, but I’m quite a light sleeper so will often hear them. But anyway, autumn is here and cooler running is happily happening! I’m four weeks away from the New York Marathon which at the moment feels quite surreal. I think it’s because I’m only going Friday to Monday so it doesn’t feel like a “proper” holiday (or at least not a proper long-haul one). My training is continuing to go well, and by that I mean I’m suffering from no injuries and I’m managing to get the long runs in that I’ve planned. Happy days. More on that in another post.

Work is also tootling along nicely and I’m still enjoying the numerous cakes and baking exploits inspired by the Great British Bake Off. I swear not a day goes by that I don’t have some sort of baked item to scoff. It’s very much happy times right now. I’ll be sad when this is over!

I’ve enjoyed banana cake…Cookies…
White chocolate brownies…Lemon and mojito drizzle cake…
And Malteaser brownies.I don’t know about you but I quite like having something sweet during the day to perk me up. Between my team (there are three of us) we have a snack box that we keep topped up with biscuits and chocolate. I’ve only recently discovered my new favourite obsession: M&M Caramel Crunch.From speaking to other people (understand that this is a high topic of conversation for me) you either CANNOT GET ENOUGH OF THEM, or you’re absolutely not fussed. There is no middle ground. It gives me slight anxieties to know that they’re “limited edition” and could disappear at ANY MOMENT. It’s taken all the will power in the world to not buy 17 packets in Tesco when they were on offer for £1. That said, I probably have bought that many over the past few weeks. It’s becoming a problem.

And after a month off, Kyle and I went back to Sprinkles. We recognised we were going too often and decided September would be a Sprinkles (and similarly Scoops) Free Month. Now we’re out the other side and decided to treat ourselves for our hard work. We popped in there on Saturday… still as filling, sickly and ultimately amazing as usual.I am well and truly a fan of waffles now.

And just further on the note of food (my favourite subject other than running)… I won a box of brownies on Instagram the other week! It was through my @AnnaTheCake88 account where I follow a million different restaurants and foodie accounts and someone was doing a giveaway of The Funky Brownie Co. and I got involved and somehow won.They very kindly posted me six different brownies for free!How good do they look? I haven’t yet tried them but they look to be a mix of blondies and brownies. They’re safely tucked away in the freezer for the right moment (i.e. a random Tuesday night…).

And I’ve realised that through Instagram you can pretty much buy any sort of baked good you want. Knowing Kyle liked fudge I bought some homemade fudge for a very reasonably price from a lady who lived literally 10 minutes from me. What a time to be alive eh! But please, someone take my cards away from me because knowing how easily this can be done I feel I’m in danger of going bankrupt very quickly…

I got him peanut butter fudge…And vanilla fudge, both from Vanilla Lace Cakes in Fareham.I’m actually not a huge fudge fan (surprisingly I know) but I did have a nibble. Very melt in your mouth sweet and smooth. Kyle loved them!

I do eat other food than cake of course, but this stuff is far more exciting, no? 😉

What’s your favourite fudge flavour?

Who’s your favourite on Bake Off?

What would be your signature bake?

QECP parkrun, the Sweet Tooth Festival and the best ribs

Through Facebook I found out about an event that was RIGHT up my street. The Sweet Tooth Festival. I mean whaaaat.

On further investigation I found it was in Fareham, very local to me, and basically a load of stalls selling cakes, sweets, fudge and more. I was very keen to check this out!

But first, parkrun. I decided on Queen Elizabeth Country park parkrun as it was most local to Kyle as he very kindly offered to cheer me on. He’s still not running. He’s being far more patient and sensible than I would be as he wants everything to feel completely normal before he starts running again, which is obviously a good idea. It would be a shame to rush back into things and re-ignite the injury. But being the lovely guy he is, he offered to come with me to QECP.

We got there for 8.45am and walked the very short but STEEP distance to the start. I’ve run this parkrun once before but in the pouring rain so it was nice to have it in drier conditions. There weren’t a huge number of other runners – I don’t think there are usually because it’s quite out of the way from residential areas and it’s a tough one to regularly do. The run director delightfully informed us it sits at number 509 on the flat scale out of 519 parkruns!

Kyle would be able to cheer us on twice – after about a mile with the first loop and then at the finish. The first mile is a straight up slog and then a breakneck downhill, so quite varied!My legs were already burning within the first five minutes. I managed to take the lead out of the females quite soon but there were only 36 other females and 85 runners in total.I was actually quite surprised at how good my legs felt despite being asleep not very long ago and having run a marathon less than a week ago. I decided to just embrace it. The second mile is the worst. The hill you have to climb really does just go up, up, up. When you think you’re almost there, you turn a corner and see more to come. Definitely not a negative splitter!The run felt good but tough. The final mile has a great downhill section to really gain some speed and then some cheeky inclines and then a straight run to the end. I somehow managed to get myself 8th place which was very cool.
My time was 22:13 – I’m over the moon with that! It certainly helps to have someone cheering you of course.

After sorting ourselves out, Kyle and I headed to the Sweet Tooth Festival in Fareham.I’d describe myself as a small child in a sweet shop but realistically I was like Anna in a cake shop 😉 I was very excited. It was £4 entry and then we were able to wander round the different stalls and TRY ALL THE TASTERS. CAKE TASTERS. I mean, this is LITERALLY heaven. I realise I’m over-using the caps here, but seriously. Amazing.There were so many different local cake bakers and sweet-related companies – it was so cool! Companies like The Gourmet Brownie Kitchen, The Game Bird Country Catering, The Rolling Scones…etc. etc.
As we hadn’t had any breakfast yet and were planning to head to Southampton for lunch we really tried to not go to mad on the tasters…but I did have my fair share of brownie chunks, cupcake bits, pieces of cookie and forks of cake slices. A decent breakfast I think! 😉

I think I was mostly impressed by the amazing looking cakes. The Rolling Scones had so many fantastic and unique sounding cakes… a Rolo chocolate cake and a Caramac cake to name just two. And they looked incredible. The best part was there were taster slices that we could try. I mean WOW.There was even a competition to guess the weight of a cake – to WIN the cake. Kyle and I took ages trying to decide. We’ve both done weights in the gym quite a bit so we were trying to imagine what dumbbell it would equate to.
This was some serious business! In the end we went for 3.5kg. It was apparently around 1.9kg, so we were quite a bit out…wishful thinking eh!I could have spent a fortune at the festival. In the end I feel I was fairly restrained (for me!). I bought a blondie, a salted caramel brownie and a cookie.Kyle got a cookie, a Ferraro Rocher brownie and we both shared a rocky road slice. We saved them though because we were heading for lunch straight after. The temptation to eat them though was SO strong.It was a good thing that the traffic was horrendous getting into Southamtpon (because of the boat show) as it meant our stomachs could have a bit of time before our next onslaught of food. Because we’d enjoyed Red Dog Saloon so much the last time we went we decided to go there again. The last time we went Kyle had had these amazing deep fried ribs as a starter and we were both hankering after them again.

God they are SO good. To be honest I probably could have eaten an entire rack of them but they’re very salty and probably terribly bad for you… but they taste omg good.And for mains I went for chicken wings… I know, I’m so predictable. I went for quite a piggy 24. The options were 6, 12 or 24 and I knew 12 wouldn’t be quite enough. I wasn’t sure how spicy the buffalo would be so I went for half buffalo and half BBQ. I should have just had buffalo though, they were SO good and not spicy at all. I didn’t have any sides as I knew I’d literally have a lot on my plate. Kyle had a beasty burger and epic fries with bacon, cheese and chicken bits on.I managed 19 wings before throwing the towel in. I didn’t want to push myself to discomfort – I had nothing to prove this time 😉 I eat for enjoyment after all. They were very tasty though and I ate all the buffalo ones. We were far too full for pudding, and we also had our sweet treats back at home. I can definitely see her going back here a few times!

The next day I left my run until the afternoon so I could enjoy a lovely lie-in and chilled morning. It was such a nice change not to go running straight away when I woke up. I rarely ever have such lazy Sunday morning. And actually it worked perfectly because it was pouring it down with cold rain and howling a gale outside. It was a welcome relief to not go out first thing.When I did finally get out it was blue skies and only a little breezy. I had some grand ambitions of doing 15 miles but after running 10 miles on Thursday evening and being a week from the marathon I sensibly decided 12 would be quite enough. I know for me this high mileage so soon is a bit reckless so I need to be careful. Injuries are easily come by for me.Annoyingly my headphones ran out of battery four miles in but it was actually quite nice to have a “silent” run. I just relaxed and let my mind wander. Though I could definitely feel my legs getting tired towards the end. I was glad to stop. It was not one of those “I can run forever runs”! But a solid run nonetheless.

Do you ever do a long run without music or a podcast?

Do you enjoy food festivals? They’re one of my favourite things.

What brownie flavour would you go for?

Post-Goodwood Marathon – what next?

So after the marathon last week I felt strangely really good. OK straight after I felt dreadful but the day after I was good.

I say strangely only because I’m so used to something feeling off or not right. I’m convinced I’m an injury prone runner (it would take a lot to stop feeling that way I think) but I guess I’ve found a happy balance of running, gym and general health that has kept me (*tough wood*) injury-free for most of this year. I’ve had a few calf niggles but actually nothing that has stopped me running consistently. I’m obviously really pleased about this! I just need to remain sensible in my training.

I didn’t go to the gym or run Monday and enjoyed a solid 9+ hours night sleep (having gone to bed so early and probably fallen asleep before nine o’clock). I was worried the god awful headache might have persisted but thankfully the awful pounding had disappeared. Had it not, I’d have taken the day off of work because there was no way I could have focused on a computer screen let alone concentrate on anything.Another irksome outcome of the marathon was that my right ankle was quite swollen. When I took my trainer and compression sock off after getting home it was a ridiculous size. I poked, prodded and moved about on it and it felt fine. I definitely hadn’t gone over on it during the race. I then remembered I had a bite on it the other day. The swelling was all around that. My mum mentioned that it might be due to the fact that I’d been wearing my compression sock all day and that probably hadn’t helped the bite situation. It looked terrible! Thankfully after a couple of days the swelling went down and I’m just left with a little bite mark now. But how weird, wouldn’t have had a clue that that could have happened. During the race itself I hadn’t noticed a thing.I was strangely glad to be going into work the next day it must be said. We had our sweepstakes Bake Off happening so I knew they’d definitely be cake. Happily the baker had brought in some crazy good rocky road (literally one of my favourite ‘cake’ things).

I also knew that another team were doing their own Bake Off competition and I’d already managed to muscle my way into trying their bakes too. In fact, when I got to my desk in the morning I was over the moon to find a brownie wrapped up and put under my mouse ready for me!So by 11 o ‘clock I had a chunk of rocky road, a brownie and a good slice of a five tiered chocolate cake to tide me over. Not to mention one of my colleagues had brought back Hershey’s chocolates from the States after his visit. I was well and truly making up for my calorie deficit from the day before 😉I don’t really believe in eating stupidly after a big race – at this point after 15 marathons my body is pretty used to running. But I do believe in enjoying yourself a little bit. I mean, to be fair, I hardly ever need an excuse to eat cake but I did feel like it was just that little bit less difficult in terms of sweet tolerance! I had a good appetite going on – the runger was STRONG.I was back running Tuesday. Nice and gentle I did 10k at lunch. I felt a bit tired but in general my legs felt fine. No niggles. Whoop whoop!So now with about six weeks until New York I’m not going to go ham on the training just yet. I’m enjoying running and it’s feeling good so I’m going to (hopefully) stay around 30-40 miles a week, though closer to 30 for the moment. I’m also loving the gym and doing regular circuit classes. It feels like my whole time working hard at the gym on my own for years has been training to then smash these circuit classes and see what I can do.I really do enjoy the classes. It helps to not have to think about what I’m going to do, and it’s nice to feel a bit competitive and try and work hard in a class. And they are HARD. I mean, to be fair, you get what you put in them so I always try to push myself on the weights I use, the number of reps I can get in and how hard I can push. And it’s nice have an instructor there to help with technique and form.

So yeah, things are going well. Lots of running, gym and of course cake!

Do you enjoy classes at the gym?

Have you been watching Bake Off?

What’s your favourite cake/baked item?

Things I’m loving lately – September

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while! I will recap my latest marathon soon, but for now here are some things I’ve been loving recently.

Baking: You know it’s the end of summer in the UK when The Great British Bake Off starts. I love this programme but honestly it’s such a hard time for me. I spend the entire Tuesday evening just wanting cake. Happily though at work we’re doing a Bake Off Sweepstake (a Bakestake if you like). A group of us have gotten together and we’ve been assigned a baker each. When that baker gets kicked off the person assigned has to bring in baked goods before the next episode. I had Imelda so I had to bake first.Now you may or may not know (if you’ve read this blog a long time you will know) that I’m an appalling baker having had many baking fails. So I needed to find a simple fool-proof (Anna/idiot-proof) recipe. I also wanted something that was a tiny bit more exciting than my usual go-to of brownies or simple cookies.

I did a bit of Googling and found an amazing looking creation… Jammie Dodger Blondies! Though I’m not a huge biscuit fan, I do love Jammie Dodgers and I love white chocolate, both key ingredients to this. And amazingly the recipe sounded so simple (the recipe I used is THIS one).

Jammie Dodger Blondies!

Ingredients

  • 200g Butter
  • 300g Golden caster sugar
  • 150g White chocolate chips/chunks
  • 3 med. eggs
  • 1tsp Vanilla extract
  • 225g Plain flour
  • A pack of mini Jammie Dodger biscuits (I found these worked really nicely for smaller pieces)
  • 6tbsp Strawberry Jam

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter with the sugar over a low heat in a saucepan until melted, then remove from heat.
  2. Add the white chocolate and stir so it melts. Leave to cool for 5 minutes (IMPORTANT).
  3. Add the eggs to the mixture and whisk as you go so you don’t cook the eggs into scrambled egg!
  4. Add the vanilla extract, flour and then mix thoroughly.
  5. Pour into 12″ x 9″ tray baking tin.
  6. Place Jammie Dodgies on top of the mixture and swirl spoonfuls of jam around them (I microwaved the jam for 10 seconds to soften it up a bit).
  7. Bake for 30 minutes at 160C Fan/180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.

Nothing went wrong. I followed the recipe. I was successful! Hurrah! Hallelujah! Praise be! And even more amazingly, people actually seemed to enjoy them and they were all gone by the end of the day. Awesome.

I can now watch Bake Off in peace without worrying about having to bake anything… while enjoying a different bake each week from someone else.Table tennis: We have a table tennis table in our office (yes I do work in a very cool place) and we have a few leagues going on so we’ve been playing a fair bit. I’m terrible. Truly terrible but I really enjoy playing it. So much so I even managed to persuade Kyle to go to a restaurant (The Southsea Village) that had a table tennis table so we could play after eating (to be fair it didn’t take much persuading, he’s as much an addict as I am though significantly more skilled).It’s so much fun to play at lunch. I mean, I should probably play more to get better but I enjoy playing regardless of my skill level so that’s something. It creates good moral and lightheartedness in the office which I think can only be a good thing.

Lush shampoo bar: I wouldn’t say I’m an eco-warrior by any stretch of the imagination but I do try and be mindful of the products I buy, the waste I create and recycle as much as possible. With that in mind, I saw that you could buy shampoo BARS rather than shampoo in bottles. Obviously I have quite long hair and do a lot of running and gym so washing my hair is something I do quite regularly (annoyingly regularly). I found that these shampoo bars not only last a lot longer than shampoo in the bottle (like 80 washes apparently) but obviously don’t require a plastic bottle.

I decided to give it a go. It was less than a tenner and my hair isn’t that sensitive (if that’s the right word) to certain products so I couldn’t see it being a total disaster.  I went for the Montalbano one, which is lemony with rosemary. It smells DIVINE. It doesn’t take much to get a lather going. I put it under the shower then rub it in my hands and then rub a bit on the ends of my hair and then carry on lathering it in without the bar. It works absolutely fine and my hair is super soft and shiny after. I’d fully recommend. Saving money and the environment. Happy days! I have a sandwich bag that I keep it in (I know I can buy a little tub but £££) and then pop it in my make-up bag for the gym. It works really well.

What products have you been enjoying recently?

Do you play any other sports?

Have you been inspired to bake because of Bake Off?