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?

Easter fun – part 1

Happy Easter everyone! Hope you had an egg-cellent time (sorry, couldn’t resist). Mine was jam-packed, which was brilliant but means I don’t feel that rested for work!

I had Friday and Monday off of work, which I suppose is the norm but I know a lot of people still had to work (I would never work in retail for these reasons!). On Friday I popped to the gym in the morning to do my strength training, though thankfully not having to get up at 5am! I was there for the more reasonable time of 8am. Though this did mean it was far more busy than I’m used to. People all over the place!

Then after breakfast my mum popped over and we headed out, with Alfie, for a lovely walk in Queen Vitoria Country Park which is where my local parkrun is held. Though the weather was a bit grisly, it was nice to walk and chat. And Alfie just loves to walk straight through all those muddy puddles! Walking is helping my mum’s back and she’s trying to swim a bit more too but she’s still off of work and will hopefully have her MRI booked in soon 🙁

We dropped Alfie back off at home, de-wellied ourselves and headed out for lunch at Gunwharf Quays. But the traffic was dreadful. The queue to get to Portsmouth was just chock-a-block so we made the most sensible decision to come off at Port Solent instead and have lunch there. Obviously this meant Zippers (which I’ve been to a fair few times I must admit). Sadly there was no salad bar anymore! Apparently people weren’t fussed with it? This does not compute with me.

Zippers Port SolentBut I still got a very tasty chicken, avocado and bacon salad (with a side of chips…). I absolutely couldn’t resist their fantastic chocolate fudge cake either. I’ve had it every single time I’ve been there and it’s consistently amazing. I would go back to Zippers purely for that cake.

Saturday was finally my 50th parkrun! It’s been a long time coming as I’ve been going to parkrun for two years. I baked some double chocolate chip cookies (a very standard recipe, nothing crazy) and they actually turned out OK which is something for me as usually I’m a terrible baker.

parkrun cookiesI went down early as normal to help set up and as I stood waiting for the others to come I saw my dad pull up. He had said he might come down to watch (he loves supporting races and seeing me run, bless him, and he’s never been to a parkrun before so my 50th seemed an ideal one to watch) but I didn’t know for certain if he’d come. I’d told him to come for 8.30-45am if he was coming so I was quite surprised to see him so early. So I dragged him into setting-up as well. hHe didn’t mind and found it quite interesting.

50th parkrun with my dad

He was my own personal photographer as well which was cool, as well as a brilliant cheerer.

50th parkrun Netley Abbey Annoyingly I hadn’t charged my earphones and hadn’t realised till I got there so I had to run music-less. I wanted to push it and find without music it’s so much harder. Probably need to work on this I suppose as it’s such a mental crutch. Though it was nice to not have music for once and enjoy the atmosphere.50th parkrun (4)I ran it in 21:14 which is slower by 10 seconds or so than last week but I felt strong so I’m happy with that! I feel like I’m being consistent which is good.

The rest of Saturday I spent with my mum again and Di, my mother-in-law. We went to Lymington for a mosey around some shops and lunch.

Lymington high street

Lovely violinist setting the tone

There was a market which was cool but it was very busy. The weather was nice, it was Easter weekend…not surprising really! It was lovely to mooch around little independent shops and the market.

For lunch we stopped in a lovely little pub called The Hobler Inn.The Hobler Inn food

I had a lamb kofta for my starter, followed by a mango Cajun chicken salad. Both were delicious and I’d really recommend this pub. It felt very food-focused and the staff were lovely.

Sunday morning was long run time again. This time 14 miles was on the plan and the wind was practically non-existent thank goodness as I was running along the beach again.

It was a good run; I felt comfortable and my legs felt strong (how long will this last??). 7:47mins/mile average.

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The only annoying thing was that I got really bad stitch about four times during the run (probably nine miles onwards) and I had to stop a few seconds to try and get rid of it. I wasn’t running fast so I wasn’t sure what was wrong (though I had eaten a lot the night before in the shape of an Indian take-away…but this has never been a problem before?). Though it was annoying it was strangely a good thing because as it kept creeping back I worked out a way to get rid of it while running so didn’t have to stop anymore. I held myself up taller and took big breaths whenever I felt it starting. And it died away! So actually quite good to have happened during a training run to work out how to get rid of it.

After the run I blasted up a beasty smoothie at my parent’s house after showering.

Nutrbullet smoothieThis contained half a banana, loads of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, semi-skimmed milk, orange juice, the Superfood power (<– not an affiliate link!) and kale. Very tasty and it made two lots so my dad got a superfood boost as well.

Right this post is getting too long so I’ll leave it there for now and recap the rest in another post.

How was your Easter?

How do you motivate yourself to run fast?

What is your perfect pudding? Fairly boring but mine is probably a brownie/chocolate cake with ice cream. But if there’s no ice cream I won’t have it as it’s too rich and I don’t like cream!

Friday Favourites

Happy Friday! I cannot believe how quickly time is flying. I’m started to get those pre-Christmas panics (you know the ones…cards, presents, food, decorations). But it’s still October. Whew.

I thought I’d do a post on some stuff I’m loving lately.

Treats in the office:

Although it’s always sad when someone leaves, I do fully appreciate them buying cakes for us to indulge in. Or having a wife that bakes cake and has leftovers!

Office treats

Clockwise: Halloween themed cupcake, oat and raisin cookie, caramel cupcake

Delicious! Nothing like cake to brighten up a day in the office.

Ben embracing the plank challenge:

I’ve been trying to do planks every other day, usually in an evening in my PJs just before bed. Ben sits on the sofa watching TV muttering some weak words of encouragement (“come on, it’s not that hard”). So when I’d collapsed into a heap on the floor I turned and challenge him to do a plank. I scoffed that he wouldn’t manage a minute.

Ben planking

Challenge accepted and accomplished! He proved me very wrong. He did a very successful minute plank. He refused to go further than a minute though. Apparently proving me wrong was enough.

Doing stretches in the ladies’ toilet:

Yeah it sounds weird. Yeah it is weird. I need to get these stretches in and so I’m squeezing them in wherever I can. Nothing major, just hip flexor stretches and pendulum kickbacks.

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I live stretch in fear of someone walking in and seeing me though…Not like I haven’t already got a reputation at work of being a little bit strange (mug incident).

Slow cooker meals:

I’ve been enjoying a fair few slow cooker meals recently and I’m loving it.

Slow cooker

It does involve a little preparation either the night before or in the morning, but it saves so much time in an evening. Perfect for when I’m back late. More on my favourite recipes to come!

Running in thunder storms:

My eight mile run on Tuesday evening began with some scattered bits of lightening which was all very exciting. On mile four, however, the heavens opened up and it was a crazy downpour!

Running in the rain

Sorry that the video is a bit rubbish! You can see how hard it was raining in the puddles though. When I got home I was soaked and ready for a lovely hot shower.

Running in the rain

Doing my best drowned rat impersonation

But other than getting drenched, it was a good run. I kept it fairly easy running 8.30-8min/miles. I wanted to ease gently back in to it after my niggle reoccurrence and also with the race on Sunday.

My best friend and worst enemy:

I recently got a new foam roller as I found my smooth one wasn’t quite ironing out all my kinks. So I upgraded to this bad boy:

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A Trigger Point foam roller. It has ridges in it to mimic a person’s hand, attempting to emulate a sports massage. I love it. It really does get into your muscles and work hard. Plus it’s nice and small to tuck away easily. Now if only I could take this to work and use it in the ladies’…

Cold weather running gear:

I can run in the cold no problem. I get warm quickly and it doesn’t bother me. All except my hands. They never get warm on runs. Last winter I just used regular gloves and they were sort of OK but a nightmare when I wanted to do something on my iPod. Now I have some great running-specific gloves with a thumb area that works on the iPod/phone screen!!

Nike Running Gloves

Plus they just look cool and aren’t bulky. In fact I feel a bit like a magician in them Open-mouthed smile

And here’s some random links for your viewing pleasure:

What things are you loving lately?

What’s your essential workout item?

Foam rollers: do you use them? I can’t live without mine now.

Time For Marathon Training

How quickly a holiday fades from your memory and real life takes over…I am fully back into the swing of life. And jeeze how cold does it suddenly feel UK people? My tan is being replaced by goose bumps.

I’m going to save my second part of my Mexico recap till next week if you don’t mind (check out my recap HERE and the amazing food I enjoyed HERE). I thought instead I’d catch you up with what I’ve been up to post-holiday.

So it is approximately 11 weeks until Marathon Time. I am doing the Portsmouth Coastal marathon on December 22nd. I am getting my head and training into gear. I’ll share my plan with you guys once I’ve perfected it. I’m basing it on several different plans and moulding into what I think will work well for me.

It’s all trial and error really as I’m a marathon newbie. But I know what works well with half marathon training and hey they’re similar right? Can’t be that much different, right…? Ha. No seriously, I know myself and when I like to run, the types of runs that work well and also what races I have planned. I don’t like to rigidly stick to a generic plan. It would never work for me. I’m also fully preparing myself to change it as I go. Flexibility is key here I think!

I’ll go into more detail later, but it’s going to be a pretty standard plan!

Marathon training

In a nutshell: running 4-5 times a week, the long runs going no higher than 20 miles, I’ll be balancing things with spinning and will also always stretch and foam roll after running.

Last weekend I went to my first Parkrun (weekly local 5k timed run) since getting back. Wowza it was tough. Having done no speed work over my holiday I found it quite tough. I decided to run the 4 miles there at a casual pace (7.45mins/mile) as a warm-up. I know from experience that my body needs to have that warm-up before attempting any serious speed work or racing. Then when I get there I do a lot of dynamic stretches (see THIS video for some of the stuff I try to incorporate – not all of it as otherwise I look like a berk Winking smile at home I do a lot of these though).

The Parkrun itself went well. I told myself just to go with however I felt when I started running. It was quite reassuring to look at my watch and see my pace considering the whole time in Mexico was like running through treacle. Mentally I needed that reassurance that I hadn’t fully lost it.

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Though I will say that we were on the flat course (there’s a choice of two courses – one with a hill you do three times and then this one). So I know after a few more weeks back into normal running I could be faster on this course as this was only a few seconds from my PB from the hilly course. Well, fingers crossed anyway!

On a non-running related note, Saturday afternoon we watched Wreck-It Ralf. Watch immediately, it is hilarious.

Wreck-It Ralph

As Ben is a keen gamer and I used to be, this really went down well with us. But I’d say it could appeal to the masses easily.

Sunday I decided to get stuck in and do my furthest mileage yet: 14 miles. I stuck a podcast in my ears and just went out at a nice and easy pace. I tried to make sure I stuck to around 8.30mins/mile as this is roughly where my longer runs should be sitting.

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It was tough but not overly tough. In my head I said if at 11-12miles if I wasn’t feeling it or felt too tired I’d cut it short. But at 12 miles I was feeling very good and decided to go for it. Luckily I have a route where you can tag on extra miles or cut things short.

The rest of the day involves not much else! HOLD THE BOAT. I forgot to tell you. I am OBSESSED with the Great British Bake Off. For those who don’t live in Britain or, like me a few weeks ago, lived blissfully unaware of this TV programme, let me explain.

Great-British-Bake-Off

It’s a competition where 13 (very talented) contestants have a to bake an array of different cakes and show different baking skills (seriously tricky baking skills – when I say tricky I mean not tricky for me which is generally weighing ingredients out and mixing them). I’m not even doing it justice. It’s just so good. And also just emphasises how truly appalling my baking is!

Though I did attempt some baking the other day to take into work. Double chocolate chip and oat and raisins (I didn’t make a note of the recipes, I think I just googled them! Nothing hugely crazy or spectacular about them).

Anna's cookies

But they came out OK and that is a thumbs up in my eyes. And they were gone by the end of the day. Happy days.

This weekend I’m randomly running a half marathon. Ben and me signed up last minute as it’s a league race with our club and we thought “what the hell”. Though I will not be racing it, I will use it as a long run.

And I have some very exciting running-related news that I’ll share with you soon! I literally am so excited. It’s sad how excited I am but it’s true.

Have a great weekend everyone!

What are your plans this weekend?

The Great British Bake Off – do you watch it? What other food-related programmes do you indulge in? The Food Network is like my mecca.

Have you run a marathon? Do you have any wise tips and tricks to share?

What good films have you seen lately?

Everything but the kitchen sink

How s-l-o-w-l-y things seem to drag when you’re soon to be going on holiday. Every day seems to crawl by…I know I shouldn’t complain though. I’m very grateful to soon be on a beach in Mexico applying another layer of suntan lotion…

It couldn’t have come at a better time as well. I feel a bit frazzled. And I know Ben is as well with all his travelling and hard working he’s been doing lately. So bring on the cocktails!

But first I have the small tiny little Bristol half marathon to get through first…I’m strangely looking forward to it. It should be great to do such a big race in terms of numbers of people. Cheddar Gorge half was under 200, whereas this one is around 20,000! Even Reading was only around 15,000 I think. So a lot of people!

What’s crazy as well is that when we get back from our holiday the ‘big’ training begins. Marathon Training. Those words just look scary to me. Marathon? Whoa. It’ll be less than two and a half moths until the big date when we get back from Mexico. I already have two races planned to help the training along:

End of October: Great South Run (10 mile road race – very popular, should be brilliant)

Mid-November: A nice and local half marathon (Gosport Half)

December 22nd: Marathon

Annoyingly enough our work Christmas party is the night before. My work always do a really good Christmas do. Last year’s was in Bruges for the weekend. This year it’s at a beautiful stately home in Winchester. Unfortunately Ben and me will opt out as it just wouldn’t be a good idea. Not with a 9.30am start the next day. I’m not too sad… *sobs*

Anyway, like I said I’m feeling a bit frazzled with work. Definitely in need of a holiday. I’ve been using my workouts as a bit of a escape. Seriously, I can’t think of anything important during those tough spin classes. My mind is purely “this hurts” or “I’m tired” or “when’s it over”. And running is like a cool breeze flowing through my mind. It just wipes all that stress away. For the half marathon I plan on just putting on some music and enjoying the scenery. I do enough introspection and worrying in my daily life to allow myself to get bogged down by unnecessary thoughts for 13.1 miles.

I haven’t really posted much about food lately. Mainly because it’s all been a bit samey and not interesting at all.

However, as it’s Wednesday (WIAW: go check out Jenn’s blog!) I did stumble across a quick meal that I just can’t get enough of at the moment. It was after I’d gotten in from spin and my body was like FEED ME. We had a lot of vegetables in the fridge that needed to be used and I just thought “what the hell”. So it was pretty much a meal with everything but the kitchen sink.

Kitchen sink meal

This delightful mess is a three egg scramble with lots of stir fry veg, mushrooms, sun dried tomato and diced trout. With a side salad of course – because you can never have too much veg, am I right? Winking smile

What made this was the trout and the sundried tomatoes. The tomatoes were in oil so this helped increase the flavour as well. I loved this. And good healthy omega oil from the fish as well!

Another meal that I’ve been enjoying is gammon steak.

Gammon

I grilled the steak and had this with cauliflower mash with goat’s cheese mixed in (heaven) and broad beans…and maybe a sneaky bit of beetroot (it needed eating). Oh how I miss eating gammon! I’m on such a meat kick at the moment.

And at work it seems everyone can’t stop bringing in cakes. Not that I’m complaining!

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Hello oat and raisin cookie. How I love thee.

Sadly our cake stash in our freezer is quickly going down. This is not good. My mum came over the other day for a catch-up…and we had the last slices of Victoria sponge. I almost cried. Winking smile Well, that just means getting/baking more I guess!

As my last point, I’ve just started reading Gone Girl after it seemed the blogging world exploding with how amazing it is a while ago (I’m so behind the trend). I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. I’m 17% through (God bless the Kindle) and I’m not massively keen. DON’T HURT ME. It’s just that it reads a bit like a comedy romcom style book but so clearly is not. I don’t know how to take it if I’m honest. It just seems a bit odd. I shall persevere though.

Have a great week guys!

When’s and where is your next holiday?

What’s your latest favourite meal?

Do you use exercise to switch off or switch on? Sometimes a long run is quite cathartic to think about different things, but usually I just like to stop thinking and shut off from the world for a bit.

What are you reading at the moment ? Have you read Gone Girl? Thoughts?