A trip to London: brunch, doughnuts and The Waitress

What a weekend!

Let’s get started on Saturday. It’s my mum’s birthday soon so I’d treated her to a ticket to see The Waitress in London. We headed there in the morning to have brunch first.

I surprised my mum with a little bottle of Prosecco on the train – pffft it’s 5pm somewhere eh!

We had brunch in the Darwin Brasserie in the Sky Tower. I’d seen this huge building many times but hadn’t realised you could have food here. This is where my food and restaurant obsessions come handy as I do so much research to find a nice spot and this came up.

We went up 36 (!) floors and were treated to such fantastic views of London. Wow it was really spectacular.

We then headed to the Darwin Brasserie (one part of the Sky Tower) and had a three course brunch.

We had a seat right next to the window and it was truly such a special experience.

For starters I had the ham hock terrine which was divine with warm sourdough alongside.

I followed this with a Caesar salad. Now I know what you’re thinking, Anna a salad what?? But a Caesar salad is my absolute favourite – when done well. And this came with the works: chicken, anchovies, croutons, Parmesan, egg and crispy bacon. Oh it was so good.

For dessert I had sticky toffee pudding with ice cream. Not my usual choice but it was phenomenal. Delicious toffee sauce.

When my mum went to the bathroom the waiter popped over and asked if this was for my mum’s birthday (I’d put it in the booking notes) and when she came back they presented her with a little chocolate brownie with a candle in! It was such a lovely touch. My mum was very chuffed. Always worth noting these things when you book.

We then spent some time taking photos, of course. The views were just amazing.

Then we headed to Covent Garden to mosey about a bit (oh heyyyy Lululemom shop). I just HAD to stop at Doughnut Time as well. These doughnuts are INCREDIBLE. I mean they’re pretty much made for greedy people like me.

They’re ginormous, i.e. regular Anna size. I picked up four (one for me, one for Kyle, one for my parents to share (lol) and one for my friend Kirsty who I’d be seeing later in Manchester).

Then we headed to the show. Oh my goodness I can’t even explain how much I loved The Waitress. It was literally everything I love. Baking, retro American diner theme and strong female leads. I cried THREE times. I’m not an overly emotional person but this absolutely destroyed a me, and in a really good way. The story was fantastic. The music and songs so good. And it was quite funny as well.

Then I said goodbye to my mum and headed to Manchester (only two hours on the train!). I was signed up to do Great Manchester 10k as part of the Garmin team. Very fancy indeed.

On the train I ate a Subway salad (double rotisserie chicken – so good!) and then horrified the two ladies opposite me by wolfing down my doughnut. It was the Robert D’Noreo… brown butter glaze, New York cheesecake filling, Oreo crumb chocolate ganache and mini Oreos.

I mean WHAT. And yes I did eat it all. The two ladies said they had doughnut envy haha. You should have seen me, covered in icing and Oreo crumbs. I was a mess but so very happy.

That filling!

On getting to Manchester I met up with Kirsty (@shortgirlrunner on Instagram) and we had a quick drink. I’ve never met her before but have chatted a few times on social media and she’s just as lovely as she seems online. We arranged brunch for the next day (the race didn’t start until 1pm) and then parted ways, her to her hotel and me to my Airbnb.

I walked about 15 minutes to get there to find no one was answering and the key the host had APPARENTLY left on a window wasn’t there. It was past 10pm and I started to panic. I went up and down the lift to make sure it was the right place… I checked every window… I rang his mobile several times… left messages, and nothing. I was panicked, called Kyle and he suggested going back to the inner city and getting a hotel.

While I headed back (it was so busy and loud!) he found me a hotel to stay in that wasn’t too expensive (tho thankfully Garmin were paying my expenses – I knew I’d get a refund from Airbnb so that calmed my brain a bit). But Jesus it was so stressful and I was so tired!

I got a nice hotel room and got into bed after 11pm. The host messaged me saying he FELL ASLEEP and didn’t hear me knocking. Sorry sunshine, too little too late. Thankfully Airbnb did refund me and were super quick and nice about it. Just a crummy host! Always a flipping drama with me eh!

I should have just got a hotel to begin with but I’m not used to people paying my expenses for me and went with a cheaper option as I felt bad (this is silly logic I know). Next time I’ll just be more sensible (if there’s ever a next time!).

I’ll leave it there for now and recap the race proper in my next post.

Have you ever had a dodgy Airbnb before?

Do you like the Great Run series?

What’s your favourite doughnut flavour?


Back to speed work

Down South we are having some gorgeous weather lately.

Crisp and cold in the morning and then beautiful sunshine later in the day. The temperatures are still chilly but this only means perfect running conditions for me! I love it. It puts a spring (ha!) in my step.

Do you remember that time I briefly went to track for a bit? Yeah neither do I. A distant memory. It was never going to last due to the amount of faff it took for me to get there. I had to leave work later, drive to Southampton, park 3 miles away and wait for about 15 minutes before running there. My entire evening disappeared. Totally not worth any of the speed gains in my opinion. Yes I did enjoy doing regular speed work in such a controlled way but realistically it just didn’t fit into my routine or make me particularly happy over all.

But anyway, I do know I need to do some speed work. Doing it regularly makes me happy. It breaks up all the samey runs I do and makes me feel strong. At the moment I plan to do them once every two weeks to keep an eye on stressing my body too much and avoiding injuries but I’m quite excited about it.

Kyle and I actually did a speed session last week together round the lake at work. It’s a perfect area to do it as it’s fairly soft underfoot (so less stress on the body), there are no cars, no traffic lights, it’s flat and one loop is about 1.5 miles.

I thought we should test out some mile reps. We started with a one mile warm-up and then the reps would begin. We weren’t going to run together but just run at our own speeds. Incidentally these paces were very similar and actually having Kyle ahead or behind me really helped motivate me to keep up or keep him from catching me. After the rep we’d do a cool down jog for 0.5 miles until we got to the start point again. And then we were off once more.

The reps were hard (to be expected!). I felt it in my lungs and legs. It look a lot of concentration to hold on (but also not to blow myself to pieces too soon).

But I’m really proud of myself for reaching the paces I did. I’ve never done mile repeats this quickly. Genuinely think it helped doing it with someone else. Hugely more motivating than doing it solo.

Speaking of Kyle, we had a lovely Valentine’s Day together. We had a very relaxed evening not doing too much.

He cooked my chicken wings and ribs, which of course are some of my favourite foods. And then we chilled watching Sex Education – which is hilarious by the way (tho a weird blend of British and American-ness).

He bought me some lovely gifts, which included some of my favourite chocolate.

I adore Hotel Chocolat! I was very chuffed. Of course they didn’t last long…

Did you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Do you do speed work?

What’s your favourite speed session?

Birthday celebrations – friends, running and ALL the food

This weekend was a scorcher! I was so pleased the weather was good as I was off to London on Friday afternoon to see my friends to celebrate my birthday (which is today…booo! On a Monday!).

I headed up to London on the train and met my lovely friend, Charlotte, for dinner. We decided to go for a Mexican meal and it fully hit the spot! Charlotte’s just changed from being a veggie to eating meat, and this still blows my mind. She ordered a chicken skewer and chicken tacos, while I ordered chicken wings and chicken fajitas.It was SO good. It fully hit the spot of what I wanted that evening. I even got to finish off Charlotte’s skewer as it was just a bit “too meaty” for her (she’s still adjusting to being non-veggie) and she’s also a normal person who doesn’t eat stupid amounts like I do! And of course, a cheeky frozen margarita was in order.

And what finishes dinner perfectly? Some pudding of course! I was on the hunt for something tasty…and found a lovely little waffle and dessert cafe to satisfy my cravings.From there we headed to some bars for drinks and then met our other friend Laura, who lives in London, and headed to Camden for some dancing. It was such a fun evening. I’ve been feeling a bit stressed and a bit frustrated with a few things so this was EXACTLY what I needed. We got to Laura’s, where we were to be staying overnight, at 2.30am. Pooped!

Now being the running-obsessed person I am, I had my alarm set for 7.30am to head to Wormwood Scrubs to meet our other friend, Kate, for some parkrun tourism. She’d driven down from Bristol and had found Wormwood Scrubs parkrun was the easiest for her to get to and a good spot for her to leave her car without paying a fortune. Also, she spec’ed out the place and found that the local running clubhouse had showers! So she brought me a towel and some shower gel to use, bless her.

When my alarm went off at 7.30am I was a little worse for wear but got myself together to leave by 7.45am and onto the tube. I was a bit of a walking zombie but got there on time and with no issues. Have I finally become a real adult!?Wormwood Scrubs is next to a huge prison (you can see it in the bottom left photo above). I had no idea but it was literally right next to the park. Interesting!Wormwood Scrubs parkrun is all run on grass and is 2.5 laps. It’s a bit uneven underfoot and though it appears flat, does actually have some deceptively sneaky inclines. I was having some serious hay fever issues that morning (damn Stingy Anna for buying Tesco’s own hay fever tablet) so this was giving me problems. Lots of sneezing and my eyes were SO itchy. Being in the middle of a field didn’t help.Nothing huge or could be called a hill, but it does increase the effort level. Considering I was feeling a bit, er, tender and the temperature was already at 23 degrees I made the sensible decision to go easy. Actually, that’s a lie; I couldn’t have gone faster even if I tried!!

I finished drenched in sweat and glad to stop. That was a tough one! I got 23:07 and was happy with that!

Sadly my friend Kate lost her footing a bit and hurt her calf. She had to walk a fair bit of it. But she powered through. Hopefully it’ll heal up quickly – we have another obstacle race soon!Wormwood is a really small parkrun. They regularly get less than 100 people there each week (it was actually a course attendance record on Saturday with 107 people). It was very friendly and felt very welcoming. It was nice to go to such a small one. It gives it a nice community spirit feel.

Thankfully we were able to find and use the showers in the nearby sports area. They were very basic but they did the job! Very grateful for Kate bringing her shower stuff as otherwise we’d have had to have been sweaty all day because we weren’t going back to Laura’s. Instead, after showering, we headed to Covent Garden to meet Laura and Charlotte again. They had had a lie-in (very jealous) and were feeling a bit more refreshed than I did when I woke!

We then headed away from the main Covent Garden area to look for somewhere for brunch. It was now past 11 and we were all hungry. I spotted a nice looking place but it was heaving and had no seats so we headed to a pub across the road. It was empty. I was dubious. But with no other nearby options we decided to go for it. I am SO pleased we did. And, to be fair, it wasn’t exactly peak pub time so you can’t really blame it for not being busy!

I ordered a Full English (of course) and honestly it ranks as one of my top three Full Englishes, EVER.It came with home-made hash browns. Normally I’m not a hash brown fan but home-made? I thought I’d give them a go. And I’m so glad I did!

The whole meal was incredible. Te beans were homemade and had a slightly spicy kick. Everything tasted amazing. I was definitely well refuelled!

We then walked to Green Park (with iced Starbucks, it was SO hot) and relaxed. We passed through Leicester Square and saw them setting up the premier for the new Transformers film. Very cool (though I don’t actually like the films. Urgh Michael Bay).It was such a beautiful day and so nice to catch up and chat with my friends. We weren’t a full group as one of our friends has just recently had a baby (this blows my mind) but it was nice to see the other girls.

Then we headed back to Covent Garden to indulge in a very tasty treat. This was my only request for our time in London, having seen these bad boys on Instagram and heard about how tasty they are. Freakshakes from Maxwell’s. Oh. My. God.A salted caramel milkshake with a salted caramel donut on top. My gawwwwwwd it was So good.I mean, I was covered in stickiness trying to eat this but it was phenomenal. And yes, I finished it! A perfect end to what was a really lovely, lovely birthday celebration. Even without all the amazing food, it was just so nice to have a beautifully sunny weekend chilling (and dancing!) with my friends. I went home very happy (and possibly in a deep sugar coma).

Have you ever had a freakshake?

If you had good weather, how did you enjoy it?

Have you ever seen a film premier?

How I stay on track during Christmas

Christmas time can be the best and worst of times…In many ways, but specifically in terms of food.

As soon as the red Coca Cola lorry has rocked up and the John Lewis advert has hit our screens, we’re bombarded with a continuous onslaught of Christmasness. Personally I love it. The music, the decorations, the festive cheer and, of course, the food. You really can’t escape it. And it’s tough to keep on track of your health and fitness goals when you’re surrounded 24/7 by all those naughty but incredibly tasty Christmas treats. Mince pies, boxes of chocolate selections, biscuits, Christmas puddings, cheese, stollen, gingerbread, meals out, drinks out. It’s a bit of a minefield. It’s no wonder that as soon as January hits we’re all racing to the nearest gym armed with our shining New Year’s Resolutions promising not to eat a pig in blanket for a good while.

I do first want to preface this and stress that Christmas is certainly not a time for guilt, restriction and unhappiness over food. It should be enjoyed, but like all food, Christmas treats do need some moderation. I’m not trying to lose weight but I do want to keep myself in fairly good shape over December because 1) I’m going to Florida in January and want to enjoy eating LOTS of good food there while also remembering that 2) I’ve got a marathon to run in February. Hmmm. So here’s how I try and maintain a good balance:

I don’t use the “because it’s Christmas” excuse

It would be easy to just have an “F*** it” mentality when it comes to Christmas and just eat everything in sight. December is a long month and it’s easy to get into the habit through that month of eating rubbish and ignoring the consequences. Instead…

I know when to splurge and when to save

Over December there are so many events going on from parties, dinners, drinks out, Christmas markets… I try and save myself for those special occasions rather than a random lonely Friday night with a box of Celebrations. If I’ve got a Christmas dinner planned one week I want to go to it without feeling like I need to watch what I’m eating or refuse pudding because I’m “trying to be good”. Instead I’ll make more sensible and healthy choices in the days leading up to it and the day after and fully enjoy the ENTIRE meal without a care. If that means two puddings, then that means two puddings.

I had a second plate of puddings at my work Christmas dinner #winning

Eat the good stuff

I’m a big believer in not denying yourself any foods. However, there are definitely superior foods to be had during Christmas. There are treats I can eat any time of the year but mince pies, Christmas cake and things like that are generally only available around Christmas. And I don’t want some crappy mince pie because it’s just there, I want the quality one that I know I’ll enjoy and savour the most. If that means spending more money, then I will because food enjoyment is important to me.

Don’t buy it

If you are worried about over-indulging and eating ALLTHEFOODS, then don’t buy them. Rest assure you will find things to enjoy outside of your home but it’s all the harder to get to them which means you can’t easily eat them all the time. I don’t buy any Christmas food but that doesn’t mean I don’t get to eat it. I just enjoy it more when it’s not so easily available.

Keep focus on your goals

Christmas doesn’t have to change anything. Keep going to the gym or running etc. and stay in tune with the goals you had before the Christmas madness took over. Christmas is one day. There are still weeks before and after that you can carry on as normal.

But don’t punish yourself

You ate three mince pies in a row? You had two slices of Christmas cake? You went back for seconds/thirds/fourths at the buffet (please tell me we’ve all been there)? Don’t force yourself to “sweat it out” on the treadmill or bike. Don’t hate yourself over it. It’s one meal, one day, one indulgence. Just savour the memory, draw a line under it and move on. Life is far too short to torture yourself over a little bit of over-indulgence. Just don’t repeat that indulgence every single day of December.

Enjoy yourself

I love Christmas but I don’t go mad every day. I know for a fact on Christmas Day I will eat far too much food and will probably physically feel like utter crap the next day. But mentally I’ll have enjoyed myself and have no regrets. Food needn’t be a barrier or an anxiety during what should be a very happy and festive time. It should supplement the day but not be the focus. Enjoy the good food with your loved ones and relax.

How do you stay on track during Christmas?

What’s the one Christmas indulgence you just can’t say no to?

Birthday weekend–part 1

And just like that I’m another year older… I turned 28 yesterday. I’d like to think that I’m wiser and have it all figured out but I absolutely don’t. But I’m happy and enjoying life so I’ll take that!

For the Saturday I had a few of my university friends down. Kate and Jamie (I went on holiday last year with them to Orlando) came down earlier so they could join me at parkrun. Now this is a BIG DEAL. This is the couple who laughed at me for going to parkrun when we were on holiday together. They were the least likely out of all my non-running friends to want to do parkrun. But, major kudos to them, they’ve started running and eating better in order to lose a bit of weight and get a bit more healthy. Jamie has lost FIVE STONE and Kate has lost (I think) over two stone. They’ve both also been doing the Couch to 5K programme and Kate had timed it perfectly as to use parkrun for my birthday weekend as her target.

They got to mine just before 8am and we headed down to Lee-On-Solent parkrun. Ordinarily I do Netley but Kate wanted a nice flat course and my dad was going to do Lee as well as my friend, Mat, who was down from Cheltenham for the week so it made sense.

IMG_2215Kate, Jamie, me and Mat

It was a beautifully sunny day. I was a bit worried about my hamstring but I’d done a quick tester run when I walked Alfie in the morning and it held up OK. Not perfect but alright.

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I’d planned to take the run nice and slowly and stop if at any point it became bad.

IMG_2216My dad rocking the England shirt

It was quite amusing to see Jamie and Kate’s reaction to parkrun. They tend to run very early in the morning and never with other people. They genuinely thought they’d be about 12 people at parkrun. Jamie said he was shocked that one minute there were a couple of people and then the next there were hundreds. They were literally taken aback by the amount of lycra and colour about.

The start was a little bit hectic I must admit. There was over 300 people and we were all bunched together. It involved a lot of negotiating around people and trying not to trip over anyone else or be tripped up. But eventually it evened out and there was enough space.

I found a nice easy rhythm. I wasn’t pushing it or feeling out of breath and the hamstring felt OK. I was surprised to see I was running around 8 minute miles.

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Lee’s a good course as you can see runners ahead and behind so I could cheer people on and spot people I knew.

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I’d say the hamstring felt 80% OK. It niggled slightly towards the end but there was no pain, just felt uncomfortable. It just annoys me though as it doesn’t make for a great run as I’m constantly thinking about it and not wanting to push myself to go fast because I don’t want to annoy it. But least it was better than it has been! I finished in 24:15 which felt nice and comfortable.

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Mat had already finished in a great time of 20:50 so we walked together to walk my dad in. He was power walking the course and desperate to beat his last time of 51:12. He was finding it tough but the tail runner was apparently really good at keeping him going.

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Towards the end, he picked up speed, overtook another guy and sprinted to the finish. Everyone cheered him in and it was lovely.

IMG_2256Photo credit: Eileen Bartlett

And he completed it in 50:16 so almost a minute off his time! He was made up Smile Kate squeaked under her goal of sub-35 by getting 34:57 and Jamie got 33:58. The absolute best part was hearing how much they loved it. Kate and Jamie are now full-on parkrun converts. On the way home they were already planning their next one (depressingly their local one was Little Stoke so now their nearest one is about 20 minutes away). Jamie was already commenting how he felt he could run further when he finished as well. YES!!! Converting my non-running friends one person at a time Winking smile

We got back to mine, showered and then my friend Shell and her fiancé, Rob, showed up to join the fun. Again, hearing them tell Rob and Shell how good parkrun was just made my day. A year ago there was nothing I could say that would persuade them that running could be enjoyable. People have to find out for themselves.

I had booked my latest favourite restaurant for lunch and we were all pretty excited. After catching up and walking Alfie and Kate’s pug, Doug, we headed to Sadlers in Southampton.

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As I’ve mentioned before, Sadlers is THE restaurant for meat (though they also have a strong vegetarian section of the menu too). The last time I went was INCREDIBLE. My friends love BBQ food too so it made sense to go here. I decided to go for the ribs rather than the platter this time as, though the platter is amazing, I was really craving ribs. And they did not disappoint.

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HUGE chunks of meaty ribs on top of chips, salad, coleslaw and cornbread. I didn’t even touch the chips. There was just too much meat (which, by the way, is not an issue).

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So tasty. Shell and Rob also went with the ribs and Jamie and Kate shared the platter.

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Ridiculously (and foolishly) Shell, Rob and I ordered sides as well. Shell and Rob went for some pulled pork and I went for some chicken wings and we ordered the bourbon BBQ sauce to go alongside. (Greed took over sanity here as you can probably tell…).

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Yeah I didn’t even touch those wings. There was just far too much going on my plate. And, amazingly for me, I couldn’t finish the ribs. I was beaten! Everyone was. Happily Kate and Jamie said I could take their leftovers home so I took a swan of shame back with me.

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Needless to say my freezer is now joyfully stocked with some smoked turkey, gammon, wings, hot link sausages and pulled pork. Happy days!

As we sat there afterwards chatting and basically recovering from the meal, the waitress appeared with a cake with lit candles and they all started singing happy birthday to me. It was such a surprise and so lovely!

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To be honest, I think the last thing we all wanted was a slice of chocolate cake. But you gotta take one for the team right?? Winking smile

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The chocolate cupcakes on top were filled with delicious buttercream. We were literally DONE after having a slice.

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We spent a long time at my flat just laying around chatting and digesting. We probably could have napped! It was such a great day. And to top it off they got me some super cool Superdry workout gear.

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Because what else would you buy me?? So, an absolutely perfect Saturday.

What is your perfect way to spend your birthday?

Have you converted any non-runners to runners?

What’s your perfect birthday gift?