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?


My travels up North

I mean I guess it’s probably more accurate to say to the midlands, but for me anywhere north of Bristol feels “Up North” as I live so south 😉

But accurate geography aside, Kyle and I drove up to Stoke-On-Trent on Friday to stay with my grandad ahead of the Manchester Marathon on the Sunday.

Before that though we had a nice walk down to Lee-On-Solent to have some filling breakfast to fuel us for the 3.5 hour car journey. I like to have a bit of a walk or some sort of movement before a long journey as otherwise your body just feels so meh. So we walked about 45 minutes to the Penguin Cafe in Lee for some brunch.

We went for the rather greedy Emperor Breakfast, which was pretty much everything I love about a fry-up. GIANT.

I swapped my hasbrowns for more black pudding

Kyle even got extra toast. When we get breakfast we mean business. The Penguin Cafe is a lovely place – though it is very much your cheap and cheerful greasy spoon. Everything tasted delicious – so I’ll let them off for their bean contamination 😉

After a lonnnnng drive to Stoke we got to spend a nice evening with my grandad and enjoy a home cooked meal of steak, vegetables and potatoes. It’s always lovely to see him and hear about his adventures in Scotland in the Cairngorms Reindeer Centre where he volunteers twice a year as their handyman and general all-round fixer-upper (“Handy Paul” as they call him). At nearly 80 I’m very proud of him.

Beautiful spring weather

The next morning Kyle and I ran the 1.5(ish) miles to Hanley park for the Hanley parkrun.

Happily it was a lovely downhill to get our legs moving. Hanley park itself was a beautiful park with a lovely pond.

Now I remember running Hanley parkrun a few years ago when I stayed at my grandad’s with my dad before the Liverpool Marathon. However I DO NOT remember it being that hilly (actually after going back to the old post I have clearly stated it was “challenging”. Obviously I wiped it from my memory…).

I told Kyle I thought it was flat but actually it really wasn’t. It’s number 406 on the elevation line-up of all the UK parkruns. My home parkrun Netley with it’s three inclines is 212!

We lined up, all happy and innocent of what was ahead, and got ready to start. Kyle and I agreed if one of us felt good to run ahead and as we got going I decided I felt like I bit of a push.

As we turned the corner we hit the first hill. OK I sort of remembered this now… but it was only one hill. Then we had a lovely stretch of downhill, where I lost Kyle (he’s a very cautious downhill runner whereas I’m pretty much a free-faller). And then we looped back round to the same hill. Hmmm.

The course, in the end, included this hill another time AND a nastier longer hill twice. So actually it wasn’t flat at all and was actually very undulating. At 1.5 miles I felt that draining feeling of tiredness where I wasn’t sure I could maintain my speed anymore. But the downhills helped me catch my breath and give me back some energy.

I managed to overtake a few females on the final mile and powered to the finish as second female. I finished in 21:42 and Kyle, not too far behind, finished 22:21.

The first female was already done and I overheard her talking to someone and saying she was from Portsmouth. I jumped over to say so was I. Turns out her local is Southsea and she was visiting family. What a small world!

Then we made our way slowly back to my grandad’s. Annoyingly having to climb up the giant hill we sailed breezily down before. Ooof it was a grind!

We got washed up, had breakfast then headed to Liverpool to see my lovely friend Charlotte, her husband and her little boy, Arthur. She used to live in Brighton (a far more accessible visiting distance) but now she’s so far away it seemed silly not to make the most of being nearby and dropping in.

As I knew I wanted a larger dinner I decided to be sensible and have a lighter lunch (yes, this is still Anna… mental I know). I went for a vegan salad but added chicken (I know, I know). It had falafels and chickpeas and was very tasty but…well, very light.

It was lovely seeing Charlotte but then we had to head off to our next destination – Manchester! Kyle and I were staying in an AirBnb about three miles from the race start and about a ten minute drive from the city centre, which was perfect.

We met up with my other friend, John from many MarathonTalk adventures, and found a perfect, albeit hidden away, pizza restaurant to carb load adequately before the race called Dogs ‘n’ Dough. John was going to be running the marathon too (Kyle wasn’t, he’d be supporting).

The pizza place was very cool and quirky, and helpfully very quiet! I went for BBQ chicken pieces to start. And a cheeky Bud Light.

And then followed it up with a giant 12 inch deep pan pulled pork pizza (The Pig Lebowski). Normally I’m more of a crispy thin fan but this was very tasty. And very filling.

I was definitely going to be well fueled for the next day! I was pretty much sent into a carb coma.

Centre of Manchester

It was nice to catch up with John, although we both admitted that it didn’t really feel like we’d be running a marathon the next day. He was going to be taking it a bit easier (he’s a 3:12 marathoner usually but is training for a much longer event). I wasn’t sure of my plans yet (am I ever??). I was pretty much going to see how it felt on the day. But I kind of wanted to give it a bit of a blast as it seemed like the weather was going to be cool and the course was flat. So an ideal opportunity.

The classic flat lay

John headed back to his hotel and Kyle and I headed back to our AirBnb. The couple who lived there (we were in a room, rather than an entire flat) were lovely and friendly. One of them had run the marathon before so I got to ask her a bit about it. It was quite amusing when they were advising me to have a good carbohydrate rich breakfast and get a good night sleep and giving me tips on running a marathon in general… they then asked if it was my first. I told them it was my 19th and they looked stunned. They then said “oh well I guess you know what you’re doing then!” hehe.

Have you ever been to Manchester before?

Do you prefer thick crusted or thin base pizzas?

What’s the hilliest parkrun you’ve done?

18 miles – feeling tough

I know I’m a bit of a weird creature in that I really do enjoy marathon training.

In general it’s enjoyable, it’s fun and I like doing it. But it can be hard. My motivation can dip and I can find myself wondering how am I going to do it.

Usually it’s the long run that I dread (though it’s also the one I feel most accomplished with and happy about usually). The thought of running 18 miles, almost three hours of running for me, well, it’s a long time. It’s a long way. It also means waking up on a Sunday morning and not being able to just lay there, or get up whenever. Because the later you leave it the more it eats into your day.

I felt this way leading up to my weekend long run this week. I had 18 miles planned and originally I was going to do it on Sunday. But the thought of going to bed Saturday night knowing I had to wake up and run all that way seemed really unappealing. Kyle offered to run a bit of it with me which was lovely but the route we’d go would mean he’d run 9-10 miles with, still leaving me with a good chunk left on my own. Urgh.

I decided to float the idea of running to parkrun on the Saturday. We’d have to set an alarm and get up relatively early anyway on the Saturday and by combining the long run with parkrun would break it up and mentally seem far easier because all you were doing was travelling to parkrun – a destination run is far easier, mentally, than just a big loop. However this would mean that Kyle would be running 15 miles in total rather than say 12-13 miles. Bless him, he agreed to do it.

So I woke up Saturday morning just after 6am to run about 5k beforehand, then picked up Kyle to then run to Havant parkrun. Though Havant parkrun is actually only four miles away from where he lives we needed to run a bit of a long-winded route to get there to get the extra miles. Actually it was very similar to the route we did last week to Southsea. The very hilly route through Waterlooville, Purbook and up the dreaded Widley hill…

Just finished the Widley hill

As soon as I started running I realised this run was not going to be easy. My legs felt heavy and I felt tired. I was a lot slower than the week before. Annoyingly the thing about running an almost identical route is that you have an identical comparison. After the first three or so miles after Kyle joined me we both moaned that it felt so much harder. It could have been because earlier in the week we’d done our first speed session in a while… or the fact that we’d gone to the cinema the night before and had a Subway quite early for dinner. Either way, it was like running through porridge. We were probably 30-40 seconds per mile slower.

But we got to Havant with 10 minutes to spare

We were both dreading parkrun at this point. I’d just run 15 miles and Kyle was on almost 12. The run there had been so hard and such a grind. And Havant wasn’t a particularly easy parkrun. It wasn’t flat and had an especially steep downhill section which would be brutal on our legs. The ground was also very uneven and hard.

Zack, Kyle’s brother, met us there. He was just going to run parkrun (never “just” but you know what I mean) and was very kindly going to give us a lift back. He’d forgotten his barcode and wasn’t feeling very well so all of us were a bit “meh” about starting the run.

Kyle and I decided to run separately as neither of us wanted any sort of pressure to run at a pace we didn’t fancy. We just wanted to zone out and run however we liked. I was amazed to find that as soon as we were off my legs felt a lot better. Maybe the mini-break had helped? Whatever it was I was able to find a nice rhythm and run quicker. Perhaps I just wanted to get it done and finish the run.

I caught up with two men who were chatting about one of them surprising his partner with a trip to New York and I was able to zone out and listen to them chatter. I briefly considered telling them about the best cookie place (Levain Bakery) but decided not to interfere. Though when I went past them I wished the guy a lovely holiday and he laughed and said thank you.

I finished, HUGELY surprisingly to me, in 23:24. Kyle wasn’t too far behind, having cruised nice and easily in, followed by Zack who hadn’t had struggled a bit but still managed a stellar strong time. We were all glad for it to be done though! What a feeling to have 18 miles under my belt! And no injuries or niggles. I was quite surprised my calves didn’t feel too bad considering I’d forgotten my compression socks… perhaps it is all in my head that they work on long runs eh!

I enjoyed a truly wonderfully hot bath when I got back to Kyle’s. I wanted to lay in there forever it was so good. And then enjoyed a giant mug of tea and steaming bowl of porridge. Honestly, these are the simple things I really crave after a long run. So good.

This photo makes me laugh – Kyle looks very happy with the run haha

For the rest of the day though I felt so drained. I was exhausted. I haven’t run that far since the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon at the end of December and I could really feel it. I even had a 40 minute nap later in the day. I was just absolutely shattered. It’s amazing how quickly you lose the adaptations your body makes during marathon training.

My post run porridge and tea, so good

Luckily though I was able to significantly refuel with a solid dinner with Kyle and my parents that evening at the newly opened Hancock’s in Whiteley. It was my dad’s birthday on the 14th (yes, Valentine’s Day) so we went out to celebrate.

The meal itself was a bit “meh” but the company was lovely. I went for cauliflower bites to start which were a little boring. Basically just cauliflower with buffalo sauce on.

My dad was disappointed that they weren’t able to do steak (something was wrong in the kitchen apparently?), so instead we both ordered the whole chicken (each). It was about the same price as a full rack of ribs so we were both SUPER surprised at how big it was. I mean, it was literally like they bought a family sized chicken from Asda! It was quite tricky to eat to be honest. Like carving straight in on your plate.

But the pudding was the star of the show. Chocolate fudge cake brownie. I mean, wow.

I think Hancock’s needs a few more weeks to find it’s feet if I’m honest. The food was OK but nothing to scream and shout about. My pudding was amazing but Kyle had the waffles and really it was just a waffle with a blob of ice cream on and some sauce. But as I said, it was the company that was the best bit. My parents, Kyle and me had a really nice evening together. Crazy I know, but sometimes food is secondary for me 😉

How far are you willing to run to get to parkrun?

What are your cravings post long run?

Have you had a disappointing meal recently?

I am 30 and I live at home with my parents

This was the title of a BBC News article online. But this is also my life. Is this so shocking? I guess if you’d have asked me this 10 years ago I might have been concerned, shocked and disappointed with my life. Jesus, 30 years old, AN ADULT, living at home WITH MY OWN PARENTS.

Someone at work leaned over to me and pointed to this news title and went “ooof imagine that”. But I replied, “well that’s me and I don’t actually see the problem”. I was quite happy to say I wasn’t bothered and that I’m enjoying life. I’m very happy right now. It was a big decision that I made over a year ago, but one I’m 100% content with and have no regrets about.

I first moved out about a year after I finished university. I moved out with my fiancé. We bought a house, we got married and we lived there for about 2 years. The marriage didn’t last and we separated, amicably. We sold the house and split the finances 50/50 and went our merry different ways. I bought a flat and lived there for about a year. At the time I was working in a job I really wasn’t enjoying. I found another job that paid significantly less. We’re talking a 13k pay cut, yes really.

I was very well paid in my previous job but the money wasn’t enough to make me happy. Though I could continue to afford to live in my flat on my own I would be limited to what I could do. I wouldn’t really be able to go on holiday and I would have to monitor my money VERY carefully. Quite the change in lifestyle.

My parents very kindly offered to have me move back home and I could then rent my flat out. This meant I could continue to pay my mortgage but also buffer up my salary so this difference in money wouldn’t be that great. So I moved back home.

I am in a very fortunate position in that I get on extremely well with my parents. We can easily hang out together and have long chats about just about anything. We go to the cinema together, for food together, go walking, go shopping. I enjoy spending time with them. I get their opinions and advice on big and small things. But they ask for my opinion and advice too. I genuinely love spending time with them. Even after I moved out I would speak to them daily and see them most weekends. I never wanted to move too far away from them.

I won’t lie. There was an initial time that I felt like I’d failed at my life. I was embarrassed when I told people what I’d done. I was embarrassed when people asked me if I’d be seeing my parents for Christmas and having to explain, well yes, like every single day. But I got over it when I realised, firstly no one really cared, and secondly I’m still independent and I’m happy. Crucially one of my main focuses in life is to be happy. I mean, if I’m honest, my parents should really make my life a little bit uncomfortable to encourage me to move back out… I’m working on it!

I think the important part is the mutual respect, love and understanding that we all have to each other. My mum does not do my washing. My parents do not cook me dinner. They do not buy me food. I have my own fridge out in the garage. I come and go as I please. Of course I treat them and the house with respect. I clean up after myself. I let them know when I’ll be coming home so they’re not surprised. I give them space. They give me space. I maintain a level of independence and self-sufficiency that means I don’t feel like I’m 15 again.

I love living at home. I mean, I loved living in my flat too, but there is something so lovely about coming home to people rather than an empty house. It’s nice that Alfie gets a garden. It’s nice that I can leave him with them when I go out and not worry about him being left alone. And likewise, my parents like that I’m there looking after the house and dogs if they’re not in (they have three dogs).

This is Dylan

I could go on. My point is: I’m 30 and I live at home with my parents and this is not a problem. It’s just a stepping stone.

When did you move out?

Do you get on with your parents?

A non-running update

So I haven’t been running for about two weeks.

It actually hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be. Of course I’ve missed it. I’ve missed my lunchtime runs with Kyle, my parkrunning at the weekend and the lovely long runs on a Saturday. It has been sad in that respect.

I had a hard week last week with my granddad not being very well. My parents dashed up to see him in North Wales, while I had to stay behind to look after all the dogs. It was hard only knowing what was happening through phone calls and WhatsApp but there wasn’t much else I could do sadly. He’s such a strong man (he’s on Strava regularly walking and cycling!) and very competitive and strong-willed, so it was upsetting to have things change so suddenly. But because he is so strong-willed I really hope that he can pull through and get back to a relative normal.

Running would have been a great way to kill off some tension and stress, but I had to remain sensible and not make the niggle worse. Instead I was rather over-sensitive and delicate through the week – tough for all those around me I’m sure!

But with regards to the niggle, I’d rather take a bit of time now rather than have that insidious injury cycle that I’ve known far too well in my time. Instead I went to the gym a couple of times after work and the weekend to use the elliptical machine while watching Roma on my phone (a slow, black and white foreign film. Very good but I’m glad I watched it in a place of limited distractions).

What is my niggle exactly? I’m not sure but I know I’ve had something similar before. I’m almost certain it’s to do with my hamstring which has always had a weakness and why I can no longer do heavy deadlifts, It causes my calf to become quite uncomfortable and stiff, and can even make my foot feel a bit off. It’s like a nerve thing rather than a muscle thing. It just takes time and TLC to calm it down, and luckily it pretty much has calmed down.

Kyle has been lovely and helped take my mind off of not being able to run. He even came to a gym class with my on Saturday. Normally I’d be missing parkrun and being a bit grumpy about that, but instead we had a lovely lie in until 10.30am! Though to be fair we had a very late night after watching Glass and then going to Red Dog Saloon for ribs and chicken wings.

We went to a midday circuits class. I love going to the circuits classes. Yes they are super hard and intense, but because you’re only doing one exercise for 50 seconds and then changing you can get through it. It’s so varied and there’s always a good atmosphere with the others in the class, I really do enjoy it.

It was Kyle’s first time going (and I won’t lie, probably his last!). Though he used to do a lot of strength training in the past with his brother, this was an entirely different kettle of fish. Without sounding awfully patronising, he did really well. But he was a little broken afterwards (and a day or so later too). It did make me feel somewhat good that I’ve conditioned myself to not find the classes ridiculously hard – I mean, I’d be pretty rubbish if I was destroyed after each class despite having gone for so many months now! Though I should probably look to challenge myself each class and push up the weights to make it harder…

So I’m going to attempt running today. My leg genuinely feels normal, so I’m feeling rather positive. But we will see. Fingers crossed.

How do you cope with not running?

Have you ever gotten your partner to run or do a workout with you?

What was the last film you went to the cinema to see?