Things I’ve Been Loving Lately – October/November

So we’ve almost survived Lockdown 2.0, hurrah!

Christmas is just around the corner and I’m feeling positive for 2021. Here’s what I’ve been enjoying recently.

MINI Runner’s Gift Box

The lovely people from Adventusaur sent me one of their personalised running letterbox hampers which I think is just the sweetest and fun idea.

Basically it’s a little box full of handy running essentials. It’s such a great gift to send someone before a big race they’re about to do. It contains things like Vaseline (we’ve all been there…), a gel, Haribo (of course), a protein bar (handy for post-race recovery), amongst other items.

They’re a small up and coming business so I really hope people go for this sort of thing. During these COVID times it’s nice to be able to send someone something like this if you can’t actually see them. I guess it doesn’t even have to be for a race – but someone new to running as like a starter pack for them.

Free Train

I’m a big fan of taking my phone out with me on a run – whether for listening to music or a podcast or for the standard mid-run selfie/photo.

This is a very secure way to carry your phone and what’s handy is that you can fish it out very easily on the move, or if you want to stop.

I do love a running belt and the Koala Clip I have that attaches  to my sports bra, but it’s tricky to get my phone out easily if I want to quickly change a song or whatever. It feels super secure, doesn’t bounce and didn’t rub. It’s a great idea!

Floreseca Dried Flowers

I saw this on Instagram and just fell in love with their dried flowers. I’ve become a big fan of flowers in general but they never last long (obviously). However dried flowers obviously last a lot longer. And I knew they were about to launch their Christmas collection. They’re a small business so sell out quickly so I set my alarm for when they were launching and managed to snag myself a one of their Winter arrangements.

Ahhh they’re so beautiful! Love our sparkly and Christmassy they are, but not overly in your face Christmasssy, you know? I could potentially leave them up after Christmas – so very much worth their money!

Care packages

My amazingly talented baker (and runner) friend Emma sent me the sweetest care package recently.

It contained one of her freshly baked sourdough loaves, brownies and a GIANT 1kg bag of peanut M&M’s.

This was such a lovely thoughtful gift! I will have to show great restraint not to eat too many M&M’s in one sitting though haha.

Hello Fresh

So I’m back on the Hello Fresh train again. I really do love it. Previously I’d find myself scouring the Internet for recipes and wondering what to cook every week night for Kyle and I. I wanted healthy, filling and tasty but I was finding we were just falling into boring routines and bad habits. And takeaways, while I do love them so, were becoming easier to just fall back to if we’d had a particularly tough day.

Now we have three guaranteed week night meals of healthy, exciting and very tasty meals. I thoroughly enjoy cooking and this is just perfect. I love listening to a podcast while I prepare dinner. And then Kyle and I will sit down to something new and see what we think.

Most of the time we love the meals, occassionally (though it’s rare) we’re a bit “meh” (there was a Mexican tostada meal that didn’t float our boat for example) but we always enjoy trying them regardless and always feel full and happy. There nice and balanced too. It’s made my week far less stressful now! I also like that the company is very eco-focused too.

If you’d like to get £20 your first week you can use my link HERE (I get money off as well then too FYI).

Bare Grill’s Smokehouse and Mrs Potts

A few weeks ago I saw two of my close uni friends and we went out for an epic lunch at Bare Grills in Bristol. It was GIANT and exactly the type of meal I love. BBQ ribs, pulled pork, smoked sausage, chicken wings and brisket with a mountain of deliciously seasoned chips. It was epic!

How we then had room to go to Mrs Potts for dessert I have no idea. It was a good job that we had to queue for a 10-15 mins to get a seat though. It’s a very popular café in Bristol and serves so much chocolate-related items, like hot chocolate made from melted chocolate, brownies, cookies, cake… it’s incredible.

I went for a brownie hot chocolate and took away a slice of cake (with a pot of melted chocolate to drizzle over), a stuffed cookie and a white chocolate rocky road.

Kyle and I shared and the cake and cookie later that evening after I’d gotten home (and made space!). They were absolutely divine. The cookie was definitely the best out of the bunch but the cake with the chocolate over it was incredible too.

Caithness Paperweight

My grandad who lives in Stoke-On-Trent sent Kyle and I such a lovely present. He called it a “glass dump” which just doesn’t do justice to the beauty of the gift. I guess it’s a kind of paperweight, but it’s basically a unique hand-crafted glass ornament.

It’s such a gorgeous gift and will sit proudly in our house. I do worry about my grandad living alone in Stoke in this horrible time but I ring him regularly. He does so much volunteering which had to stop during the lockdowns so I worry he’s a bit out of sorts, but he seems in good spirits. He has such a positive and happy outlook to life.

So here’s to just as happy a December 🙂

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Free Train and Adventusaur for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Kyle’s birthday, all the food and a fantastic long run

It was Kyle’s birthday last week so we decided to take a few days off of work so we could relax a bit more and enjoy ourselves.

I mean, with the pandemic and all it was hard to really go anywhere properly but we’d been given a free night’s stay at our gym’s hotel (it’s a hotel first, gym second) so we decided to use it on the Thursday night and let our hair down a bit. To be clear, the hotel (The Village Hotel) is less than three miles up the road, so we weren’t exactly going crazy here but it was nice to be somewhere different, you know?

But first we decided to go a bit crazy and buy some Krispy Kreme doughnuts. It’s a massive weakness for us, doughnuts, and not something we regularly buy. But Kyle had asked for a bit of splurge. So I went a bit crazy and bought 15! Originally I was going for 12 but then I got a coupon for money off three…and I got very excited by the new Halloween flavours.

(In fairness, we definitely didn’t eat them all and in the end gave away a number of them to family)

The vampire one (above) was particularly tasty, filled with brownie batter. Krispy Kremes are dangerously easy to eat I can tell you!

Anyway, later after the sugar high had diminished a bit, we walked to the hotel because it was so close and the weather was nice. We had dinner booked for 6pm and got dressed up all fancy. Yes, we booked that early.

Our thinking was that we wanted to have a few drinks and enjoy the evening fully. Kyle and I very rarely drink so this was a bit out of the ordinary for us. We usually just focus on the food. It’s not that we don’t drink or anything like that but we just don’t ever feel the need to. We’re a bit boring perhaps (though this does save us lots of money in pubs as a Pepsi Max is far cheaper).

Anyway I was really fancying a few cocktails for some reason and so this was the perfect place to satisfy that craving. I went for a Porn Star Martini because it sounded a bit crazy and Kyle stuck with his standard Budweiser. The drink was DELICIOUS. It didn’t even taste alcoholic, which is generally how I like my drinks 😉

We ordered our food and I was soon devastated to find out they had run out of chicken wings. I mean, let’s be honest, I should probably have been trying something different anyway but this was a sad blow. Instead I went with a Peri Peri chicken burger with a side of loaded fries.

While I know I would have preferred the chicken wings, the loaded fries were really good. And as someone who rarely goes for the carbs this was high praise indeed. Maybe it because I was on my second cocktail or maybe because they had waffle fries mixed in. Either way they were good. The burger was a bit dull, but to be honest, I was on my merry way to getting, well, merry so it didn’t really matter.

In the end, Kyle and I had a lovely time at hotel. We got fairly tipsy and just enjoyed doing something a bit different in a different setting. I did not, however, enjoy the hangover the next day. Though the fresh air and the Starbucks on the walk back definitely helped.

Later that day, after we’d gotten home and sorted ourselves out, we headed over to Kyle’s mum’s house to celebrate his birthday (and his twin’s birthday) with his family. Kyle got to open all his presents from his family and I got to give him his cake, which I’d commissioned his amazingly talented sister to bake. I’d given her the instructions that I wanted it to have a PlayStation 4 theme.

Kyle has been collecting Platinum Trophies for the different PS4 games he has (if you don’t know about PlayStations I won’t go into what these actual are) and so it seemed fun to have the cake reflect this.

The cake turned out fantastically! Lucy, his sister, did an amazing job (check her out on Instagram @Dirrty.Cakes – you can get her to bake anything!)

We all ordered take away for dinner. Kyle and I went for Koop + Kraft and spent a ridiculous amount of money… Kyle got a chicken burger with chicken tenders and loaded fries, I got chicken wings (of course) and halloumi bites. It was so tasty! We thoroughly enjoyed it.

The next day I went out for run in the morning. I didn’t have a plan. I actually thought I was going to go out for 3-4 miles but as I got going I found my legs felt quite fresh and I had a lot of energy. I decided to head out to a route where I knew I could get at least 10 miles. As I got to about 5 miles I knew I was up for an even longer run. I love runs like this because there’s no pressure. It’s just about finding the right route. I had some music on and just zoned out. I felt fantastic! Maybe it was all the food I’d been eating or maybe because I’d had no expectation for the run, but I just felt like I could keep going.

It helped that the weather was really nice. A little windy but it didn’t bother me. My pace was quite steady and I just felt really happy. My runs in the week had felt so hard and tiring, and to be honest as I set out I was expecting more of the same. But it was completely the opposite. I just love runs like this!

I definitely felt it the next day though. My legs were heavy and tired. I did a three mile shakeout run which helped losoen them up a bit, but I kept the pace very gentle and easy (not that I realistically could have gone that fast anyway!)

The next few days we saw my parents and received even more good food, this time in the shape of Colin.

You can’t have a birthday without Colin in my opinion. And he was lovely and festive, dressed up in his Halloween special.

So Kyle and I had a lovely time celebrating his birthday, even in these strange times. In my opinion, a lot can be made better with cakes and doughnuts 😉

What cake would you have for you birthday?

Have you been to stay anywhere else during the pandemic?

Virtual Virgin London Marathon support crew efforts

Last weekend seemed to be a fairly busy running weekend for the running community.

The Virtual Virgin London Marathon weekend was upon us and, while I wasn’t signed up, I was going to be helping my two friends complete theirs.  When I say “help” I mean that they were coming to stay with Kyle and I and do their marathon round Portsmouth. I had plotted a 13ish mile route which the plan was for them to do twice. But more on that later.

Cortney and Emma came over Friday evening and were staying until Monday morning. It was exciting having guests stay over as having only moved into our new house at the end of May, they were our first. We had our spare bedroom all set up and so were excited.

Saturday morning we ran just over 4 miles down to Southsea to get some brunch at the Southsea Beach Cafe. Handily the route was the start of the route they’d be running on Sunday so it helped give them some familiarity of the area. I wouldn’t be running with them on Sunday…this was somewhat of an anxiety for me of them getting lost and me ruining their London Marathon so anything that helped familiarise them was good!

Anyway we met my dad for brunch as well because he was at a loose end due to my mum being away for the weekend (bless him). The weather was pretty crummy (as I’m sure the whole of Britain was aware) but luckily we managed to miss any crazy rain.

Kyle carried a running pack so we could put warmer jackets in for when we stopped which definitely helped.

For brunch I had the kippers, something a bit different for me, and shared the chorizo burrito with Kyle as well (because we’re greedy people, we know this).

The food was very tasty, but a little on the small side so we were glad to have had 1.5 dishes! But quality over quantity and all that jazz.

My dad drove Kyle back to ours, while Cortney, Emma and I walked to grab some coffees and cake. We dropped into Bread Addiction and I picked up a cinnamon roll and a croissant-style doughnut thing (I want to say cronut).

The rest of the day we did a bit of moseying about some shops, picking up food for later and then me going through the route. I was so worried they’d get lost. We put the routes on their watches and I tried to talk them through it. As a failsafe I was going to run the route ahead of them and mark it out using flour that I had put into three water bottles and would carry in my running pack. As the loop was only around 13 miles I was happy to run just one loop and then they could repeat it for the full distance.

Emma was going to run with Cortney for the first loop and their pace was going to be around 11 min/miles, and I was going to be running around 8 min/mile so I would be comfortably ahead marking the route.

The girl woke up early and did their morning marathon preparations while I (luxuriously) got to stay in bed until 7.30am, 30 minutes before we were to leave. I wasn’t going to eat beforehand as I never do so 30 minutes was enough time for me to get sorted. Kyle was staying at home, ready to help if needed if someone got lost.

He took some photos of us before we left and then we were off.

The wind was strong, the rain on and off for the start and it was cold. I knew the wind would be favourable to us though as where the wind would be most strong would be along the seafront but we’d be running with it behind us. And where it would be against us would be more sheltered away from the front, so not as bad.

I periodically marked the “course” with flour where there were turnings or crossings, hoping the rain wouldn’t wash them off the road. But they were more nudges rather than actual signs because they’d have their watches with directions that would be clear (I prayed!). I did hope people didn’t think I was graffitiing as it looked a little odd me marking the pavements.

As I got down to the seafront the wind was exactly as I thought, right behind me. This was nice but my pony tail kept slapping me in my face which was annoying. But less annoying than running into the full force of the wind, which I saw a number of runners having to deal with. It was nice to see so many runners out and so many wearing the London Marathon bibs. I cheered them all on as I passed them and it raised some smiles. I felt a little like a fraud as I wasn’t running a marathon but I still felt somewhat involved, if only tenuously.

I quite enjoyed my run until I got to the last couple of miles and the wind and rain really were horrendous. In my short-sleeved top I felt very cold. I was intermittently worrying about Emma and Cortney as well. Were they OK? Were they lost? Was the route OK for them?

I realised I could get 14 miles if I did a little add-on at the end so I did that before heading back home and getting inside quickly. Brrr! It was cold! I was so grateful that I ran my marathon the week before and that I wasn’t having to run that loop twice. The weather was just horrid.

I realised I had a message from Emma asking if I could grab her a spare jacket and give it to her for the second loop. I found the jacket that I thought she meant and then ran back down to where she’d be. Unfortunately it wasn’t the jacket she meant but she put it on anyway as she was so sodden and cold. She had parted from Cortney a few miles ago. She decided to run down to Southsea and back as she mentally couldn’t face the loop again. I headed back home – now having added an extra mile on to my total distance.

I then had the best shower of my life – burning my skin to red raw I imagine, but so necessary. While I was showering I heard Kyle talking to someone. Turned out Cortney had come back for some spare clothes too and was heading back out again at a slower pace. Her foot (which had been problematic before the marathon) was hurting. She was in very good spirits though!

After showering and eating a steaming bowl of porridge, Kyle and I headed out to walk to cheer Emma on. Handily we had her on the Find My Friends app so we were able to find her and cheer her on as she headed back.

Now the rain was relentless and I felt so very sorry for them being outside – it was bad enough just walking in it.

Emma finished in just over 4hrs 30 and Cortney in 5 hours 50. Bless them both, they were cold, soaked but victorious. They did incredibly! I was sorry that the route hadn’t been better for them but I think the terrible weather had been the main issue (let’s be honest, Portsmouth is Portsmouth – not much I can do there).

After everyone had showered and warmed up we drove down to The Tenth Hole to pick up very much deserved cake. I went for the vegan chocolate strawberry cake which was DIVINE. I love The Tenth Hole for their very generous (Anna-friendly) sized slabs of cake. No issues for me finishing!

So a big congratulations to Emma and Cortney for battling not only terrible weather conditions but the streets of Portsmouth to complete their Virtual London Marathon. I was glad to be involved to celebrate their achievements. Doing a virtual marathon is something so crazy… no crowds, no amazing London sights, no aid stations, no big atmosphere, no volunteers to hang a medal round your neck at the end. But I think VLM did an amazing job in creating a community and doing the best alternative possible. So bug kudos to you all who ran it!

Did you run the Virtual London Marathon?

Have you ever run a virtual race?

Old favourites and getting some structure into my running

A lot to catch up on recently…

So firstly, I’ve become a bit green fingered in our new house (and garden). I never thought this day would come. I’ve never been interested in plants or flowers before but now I’m loving that we have a beautiful little garden. I’ve planted some flowers, got some lovely little house plants and I’m carefully looking after them.

I’m trying really hard to not let them die, reading up on how to care for them and watering them as often as they should be. Who’d have thought some don’t like too much watering and some get very sad without it (my temperamental little peace lily drooped significantly when I forgot about him for a bit).

Well anyway, it’s bringing me great joy, much to my parent’s and Kyle’s amusement as I’ve never shown such an interest before.

The other weekend we also had a very lovely visit from my friend Emma. She popped down from Reading for a run and some brunch. Originally we’d planned 14 miles but when it came down to it neither of us were feeling it and decided to bump it down to 5 miles instead.

It was a lovely relaxed run and we were able to catch up whilst seeing the sea and enjoying some trails nearby to where I live.

Chicken, bacon, potato, cheese, coleslaw, beetroot, tomatoes, cucumber, corn, onion, salad, berries

We then walked with Kyle down to Southsea for brunch at The Parade Tearooms. I had the rather un-brunch-like Jayne Salad which was, as always, ginormous but so tasty.

We then walked to The Tenth Hole to pick out some cakes – it had to be done of course! The Bakewell slice was particularly delicious I must say. We are so lucky to live within walking distance to these places – though not close enough to be a real danger thankfully 😉

This weekend gone Kyle and I house sat/dog sat for my parents while they visited my grandparents in Wales. At first we were very happy because my parents have a hot tub (!!) and we were able to get a takeaway from our favourite Indian restaurant (honestly, I’ve never found as good an Indian as the Stubbington Tandoori).

But then during the middle of the night the happiness drained away as their dogs barked several times during the night and I had to stand in the garden at 3am while they did their business. This happened every single night we were there… it was exhausting. How my parents live with this I do not know. I couldn’t remember them being that bad when I lived there so perhaps they were sad my parents weren’t there, who knows. Either way it was ANNOYING. It also meant one morning we didn’t wake up until 10am!!

Anyway, despite these problematic sleeps, Kyle and I had a lovely 6 miles walk along the Titchfield Canal and Hill Head seafront. Thankfully we were sensible enough to put on suntan lotion as it was very sunny and warm. It was a lovely walk. Asides from running, I just really love to walk, explore and be outside (you might already know this I expect).

Sunlight making us squint

We also enjoyed a lovely 4 miles run down to the beach followed by a huge full English fry-up at the Penguin Café (another of our favourites in the area).

It was delicious. It was lovely to sit outside in the sunshine with the sea breeze and eat a ridiculously large breakfast. Then we walked the 2.5 miles back – which certainly helped the full stomach I can tell you!

Then the next day I got up and headed out for a solo long run. I really didn’t know how far I fancied going or where I wanted to go so just went with enjoying some of my favourite routes at random.

I listened to the new-to-me podcast RunPod which I’m really enjoying. Lots of good interviews with people about running and in the end did 10 miles. It felt exactly like what I needed. Not too hard, or too far, or too fast… just a nice gentle plod. I’ve started paying attention a bit more to my heart rate. I won’t say that I’m specifically training using my HR, but I definitely want to keep an eye on it. When I say I’m going to go and do an easy run I want to make sure this actually happens.

So much of my running is just one pace. I feel a bit of a fraud compared to other runners who do specific sessions. They run their easy runs easy and their hard runs hard. Whereas I just…run. Sometimes I go a bit faster, sometimes a bit slower. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it. And while I like to have a bit of freedom with my running and never want to go back to when I was going to the track every week, I do think a bit of structure would help. My motivation to run is never based on times or PB’s, but to some degree I know I need to have a bit more structure to at least keep me motivated and interested. With no races around the corner, my running is becoming a bit stale.

And on the subject of races… I was half-way through writing this post, about to say “guess what! I’ve just signed up for the Reykjavik Marathon – in like two weeks!” and was super excited. And then literally just got an email to say it’d been cancelled. That email came through mere hours after signing up.

I know I was probably too hasty to sign up with everything going on but it seemed like Iceland was fairly safe and they seemed pretty confident. *Sighs* guess not. I think Kyle and I will still go to Iceland (I was so super organised I’d booked flights and an Airbnb – yes, I KNOW, super keen). We’ll only go for a few days but hopefully it’ll be nice. I’ve been to Iceland on my own ages ago so it’ll be lovely to go back with Kyle 🙂

Are you going anywhere on holiday?

Have you got any races planned that are still going ahead?

A very Anna weekend

Ahh I can’t tell you how happy it makes me feel to be able to write a post like this. My usual “Anna post” whereby I eat a lot of good food and run a lot of good miles. The only thing missing is a parkrun, but soon!

On Friday night Kyle and I met up with fellow running friends Ben and Caroline for some food in Portsmouth. We went to 7Bone Burger Co. which do exceptionally greasy, over-sized burgers that hit that certain spot.

I’ve been to 7Bone many many times (both in Portsmouth and Southampton). It’s not the greatest food you’ll ever eat and I imagine you’ll get far better burgers elsewhere but it’s really the whole package of the burger and sides.

I managed to steer myself away from just ordering chicken wings and ordering the fried chicken burger with added halloumi patty, with chicken wings on the side and frickles (fried pickles).

It was delicious. Adding a halloumi patty is the way forward!

it was lovely to see Ben and Caroline. They’re very similar to ourselves and so no one held back on their order. I do love couples who eat just as much as us 😉

The next day instead of parkrun I went to the gym for some stair machine time. I would have loved to have gone to parkrun but I’m still trying to not run twice in a row, just to be absolutely certain the hamstring has time to recover.

I wanted to hit a long run on Sunday and this was more important. I think soon I’ll be able to run twice in a row, but for now Chicago is too important to risk anything – regardless of how good everything feels right now!

So Sunday I got up after a little lie-in (let’s not be sensible and beat the heat of course…) and headed out for 12-15 miles. Psychologically it’s far easier to give yourself a range of miles. I have a great route that I can pretty much cut short from 6 miles onwards, and can increase to pretty much 18 miles. And it’s lovely and flat and along the sea front.

I adore these long runs and mentally have missed them so much when I was injured. It’s my time to listen to a podcast, zone out and just run. It’s one of my favourite parts of running. Long runs just seem to click for me (unlike speed work or shorter distances which absolutely do not click for me).

I was a bit nervous, as I always am with running at the moment but I needn’t have been. It just flowed. About six miles in I need I would be doing 15 miles. My hamstring barely made an appearance until towards the end when I could just start to feel the discomfort.

I probably shouldn’t have sped up in the final miles but it’s something that happens very naturally for me.

And when I finished, though very tired and sweaty, I was so happy. Don’t get my wrong, it was hard. Mentally and physically I felt every one of those miles, but it felt like I was making gains – like I was literally levelling up my running as I went. These are solid miles for my Chicago Marathon bank. I feel very positive right now.

And what better way to celebrate a great long run? A delicious roast dinner!

I went to Kyle’s dad’s for the rest of Sunday and enjoyed an incredible roast pork spread which was perfection.

Followed by a rich Lindt chocolate cake, I refuelled very well indeed.

A solid weekend in my book!

How was your weekend?

Do you have a particular burger you like? I much prefer chicken burgers.