The New York Marathon – part 2

Carrying on my New York Marathon recap.

**Catch up with Part 1 HERE**

So I had just come off from the (dreaded) Queensboro Bridge and the mile slog that had entailed. Coming out of that silence and tough effort onto a nice decline and then straight into the busy streets of New York again was fantastic. It was almost nice to have had that respite of silence to fully appreciate the crowds again.

The sun was still shining, I was feeling a bit warm but nothing crazy. Now from 17 miles to 21 miles it was literally straight down First Avenue. It was also gently downhill. So with the crowds and the now wonderful feeling of no longer being on a bridge grinding upwards, I was flying along. I started to wonder what time I might get… sub 3:30? Could I do it?My pace was dangerous but I felt good. Now we were in Manhattan. I was still having the time of my life, waving at crowds, smiling and just being on top of the world. A woman in the crowd pointed at me and shouted “Anna you are STRONG” and in my happy little mind I thought “yes, yes I am!”.I find with marathons that it really helps to smile, even if you’re not feeling it. It tricks you into thinking it’s going OK and it boosts the crowds to cheer you. I definitely felt boosted!

I hadn’t paid enough attention to what Charlie and Anna had said before the race about where they were going to stand and clearly got confused because I thought they were going to be at mile 19… but they actually said they were going to be at mile 24. So at mile 19 I was looking for them but obviously didn’t see them. I’m annoyed that I didn’t listen properly because had I have known I would have looked at 24!

But around mile 19 we passed the area where our AirBnb was – and “our” Dunkin Donuts that we’d been going to. I suppose to anyone else it would have just been another Dunkin Donuts but to me it was like “ahhh! Familiar places!” and was a really nice moment. I knew where I was!At 20 miles I felt a new lease of life. Like I’m almost there. Less than hour I’ll be done! I put some high powered tunes on and focused on keeping going. I could barely hear my music though due to the crowds but it helped a little. Another bridge and we were into the Bronx, where I’d been told the support would thin out. I don’t feel like that was less support but I wondered just how more bridges to go and as we headed back to Manhattan I saw a sign that said “This is the last bridge!” and was SO grateful.

I remembered Charlie saying that mile 23 was the tough one. We’d run a bit of it the day before and it was literally all incline. It was a tough ask at this point. My legs still felt good, I was still buzzing but now my smile was occasionally a grimace as I knuckled down.

I started doing maths in my head for what time I thought I could get. Now I was wondering if a sub 3:25 would be on the cards. I was well over the mile markers possibly due to satellites or general drifting around the course so I made sure to try and work it out from an actual marker and not my watch. I was working out the eight times table in my head as I thought that was the easiest and most conservative.Charlie and Anna saw me (though I genuinely can’t remember seeing them) and they snapped two fantastic photos  which were better than any of the official ones.I was clearly in the zone! We got properly into Central Park and a man shouted to me “Hey Anna! Welcome to the Park!” and it was a really lovely moment. So random, but really lovely.And now I was on the struggle bus. Every 0.1 was a grind. I was holding on for dear life, pushing up the inclines and trying to fly down any declines. I knew the final 5k was going to be tough and it was. But though physically it was hard, I was still happy. Yes, happy that the finish was soon but also because the crowds were just amazing and I was smashing it. The finis line was after a grueling final uphill and I (gratefully) crossed the line 3:21:29, 3713/52697 overall, 116/3544 in my age group, 205/1812 Brit. Pretty cool! I was over the moon and honestly quite shocked how I’d managed to do that – and how I’d found it a lot easier than the previous Goodwood Marathon which was around 5 minutes slower. It just shows what a fantastic course and cheering crowd can do!I shuffled through the finish area and the sunshine and felt wonderful. My dad rung me straight away – he must have got notified I’d finished. I chatted to him very briefly as I realised I only had under 20% battery left and still needed to navigate my way back. I wanted to speak to Kyle but kept it sensible by using WhatsApp rather than drain any more battery.

Charlie had given me the AirBnb key as it was likely I’d be the first to finish. I hadn’t really planned what i was going to do after the race… but I knew Steph was going to head and find an apparently very popular pie straight after.She had luckily managed to get into Wave 1 so had started ahead of me and though she was taking the race as a training run (I think she did 3:50ish) finished around the same time as me. Very handy! Especially as I really didn’t know how to get back. I was going to walk using my phone to navigate but at this point I don’t think it was going to last.So I headed to pick up my amazing poncho and goodie bag. The poncho…well I can’t even explain how decent it is!It’s huge, waterproof, with a fleecy lining and a hood. I won’t be throwing this away anytime soon. It was part of my package (I bought my place and flights for the marathon with 209 events – I fully recommend them) but  believe you do have to pay extra to get it.

I met up with Steph (thank god!) and she took me to the amazing Milk Bar for some post marathon treats. Steph is very much into her food like I am so she a good person to be around at this point 😉

The Milk Bar was tricky to find and tiny. Once inside though, we had to wait in a quite a long queue – clearly a popular spot!Steph assured me the thing to order was the Crack Pie (real name), which I was totally game for.And I also bought some Birthday Cake Truffles.We then shuffled to the Subway to head home. Countless random people congratulated us – it was brilliant. In fact, we passed the Trump building where people were protesting outside and watched a very heated and sweary shouting match between a protester and a passerby. As we walked past the protester immediately softened his voice and said “Congratulations, girls!” it was quite amusing.

A this point neither of us had sat down since the Staten Island ferry – remember, we didn’t even sit on the bus! My legs were dunzo. I was exhausted. I almost cried when we got onto the metro and saw a rather shifty and possibly high/drunk guy sit sprawled out on the only two seats left on the train.

A wonderful woman noticed and promptly berated the man to stand up and let us sit down, “These girls have just run the MARATHON”. He quickly hopped up and we were able to sit down. I was so grateful to that lady!

We FINALLY got back to the AirBnb and the two of us happily sat and scoffed our pies and a numerous number of grapes (so refreshing). I had a glorious shower and then enjoyed seeing each of the other girls come in and swapping marathon stories with them. Everyone had had a good (albeit tough of course) race. Hurrah!

That evening we went out for Mexican food at Tolouche and celebrated happily together. I’ve never seen guacamole be demolished as quickly as it was though! The tortilla chips were hot and the guac was INSANELY good.For my main, I went for some sort of pulled short rib thing on a tortilla. It hit the spot.Of course we all wore our medals! Though I would have liked to have had a giant pudding of some sort I sensibly followed suite of the majority ruling (post marathon tummy is a delicate thing). We were all grateful to head to bed early that night – Anna and Charlie as well, they’d walked and cheered for silly lengths of time!Genuinely, the New York Marathon is my favourite marathon yet. I felt amazing both physically and mentally. I literally LOVED it. Yes there were tough moments but I remember distinctly thinking several times “I love this” as I was running. Having no time goals or pressures definitely helped. The crowds HUGELY helped. The sights and the sheer amazingness of New York helped. My only sadness is my family and Kyle were so far away, but I had some great new friends who helped make it very special.Next up… Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in December!

Have you ever run the New York Marathon?

What’s your favourite race?

What food do you like post-race?

**Check out Charlie’s blog for details about future running-related trips she’s organising!**

All the good stuff in life

I love this time of year. Before it starts to get really cold, before the super short days, and all the beautiful colours of the leaves and cool running weather. I’m feeling particularly happy at the moment. Life is good, running is going well and I have some exciting things coming up. Happy days. So things making me smile lately include but not limited to, are…

Bake Off delights: More tasty baking from lovely colleagues at work. Every week we have something new and it really does brighten up a Monday. In ironic celebration of the other week’s vegan week, my work friend, Trystan, brought in maple bacon cupcakes. Yes they may sound weird but they were really tasty. I’m a firm believer that bacon is a good addition to sweet things 😉And yesterday was a very zesty and tasty lemon tart. Genuinely I’ll be sad when this ends. I’ve gotten used to the constant supply of home-baked goodies.And even more on the note of cakes… It was Kyle’s birthday the other week (and his twin brother, Zack’s). His team at work bought him a “unicorn cake” from the CoOp downstairs (we both work at Wiggle FYI) so I was able to have a slice. I’ve wanted to try it for AGES, passing it so many times in CoOp so I was quite excited.If you’re not into ultra sweet and sickly cakes, I’d avoid but for me this was perfection. I’m basically a small child.

That evening, his family, him and I went out to Coast to Coast to celebrate. Before (yes more) cake, we had some really tasty food. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you’ll know just how often I go to this restaurant. It’s a local favourite after a marathon.I went for chicken wings to start and ribs for main (predictable AF).
We had a voucher for “buy one main and get another free” but as there were 7 of us we needed another main to make it work so Kyle and I shared a main chicken wings as a starter so we could get it for free. Happily this meant another portion of chips! Genius 😉 The waiters were really nice -Zack and Kyle got free cocktails.Then for pudding Kyle’s sister, Lucy, had made two INCREDIBLE chocolate cakes. Kyle’s was covered in Malteasers, Dime and Bueno. I had to try both of course!I did prefer Kyle’s though. Usually I’m not a huge chocolate cake fan but this honestly rocked my world. As a thank you to the amazing waiters, we gave them a slice of cake too.New trainers: My trainers have racked up over 400 miles so it was time to swap them out for a new pair. When I originally bought my trainers I bought two more pairs of the same kind because they were so cheap. £35 each in the Nike Outlet! So pleased.I love the colour! And they’re so soft and comfortable. I’m so pleased I’m set for the next 800 or so miles with this pair and my safety stock pair. I do love adidas Supernova Boosts but I’ve found these work for me really well too. They’re Nike Lunarglides. I had them in a lilac purple but I much prefer this bright colour.

Surprising speedy runs: I haven’t done any structured speedwork lately. Track…ehhh it’s just not a priority right now. I don’t have the urge to do it and the motivation is just not there. But I do like to surprise myself some days by just putting a blast into a random run. Actually this run I’m about to talk about was the day after #allthefood from Coast to Coast. I felt amazing going out at lunch and decided to see what I could do.

I randomly managed a 43:30 10k! It was a flat route I often do and the temperature was lovely and cool so really the odds were in my favour (and I was fully powered by cake from the day before).And I’m so pleased that I managed to pick up speed towards the end! Yes it was tough but not impossibly so. I’m just pleased I’m maintaining some sort of speed despite slacking on the track front. I have ideas of maybe “going for it” at the Gosport Half Marathon (November) and maybe the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon (December). Not PB attempts specifically (I think I’d need a lot more work ahead of those races to get under my current times), but just “let’s see where I’m at” kind of runs. Whoooo knows. I haven’t been injured for a bit so that’s probably in store for me soon 😉

What are you enjoying lately?

Do you like super sweet cakes? I’m very much big on icing/frosting.

How many miles do you run in your trainers before changing them? I used to be super cautious and run up to 300 miles but now I can get away with 400-450.

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?