MarathonTalk Austria Run Camp 2018 – part 1

After a morning in Geneva, James and I headed to the airport once again to then fly to Austria where we met up with fellow Marathon Talkers ready for the Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp.

I went to last year’s Austria Run Camp so I was at somewhat of an advantage, knowing what to expect. There were a few others returning as well so I was excited to see them and to meet the new people. As expected, everyone was absolutely lovely. So many different backgrounds and experience with running, it was just so interesting chatting to everyone. It was also lovely to see Rob, who looks after the lodge we stay in, and his now partner Fiona. They got together after the trip last year when she was one of the campers! How sweet is that? They’re both such lovely people, they’re very well suited.Anyway, so after a rather carsick-inducing minibus ride to the lodge (oh those winding roads…), we arrived in Styria. The accommodation is a beautiful former hunting lodge and still very much rocking those themes with antlers all over the place and old fashioned furniture and wood-everything. My room was gorgeous and had such a beautiful view out to the front. I even had my own bathroom which was great.After having some welcome drinks and meeting everyone properly, we then headed out for a gentle 5k run (two laps of the lake which was literally just outside the villa). It was a beautiful evening and everyone was in such good spirits. Beautiful views, lovely people and five days ahead of running to look forward to. What could be better?The next morning a few of us decided to get up a bit earlier, before breakfast, to have a quick dip in the lake. I mean, it was VERY quick. The temperature of the lake was absolutely baltic – far colder than last year. It seemed that Austria hadn’t quite been hit with the same heat wave as Britain had and while it was certainly warm and sunny, this hadn’t affected the lake that much.It was a fun experience nonetheless. Breakfast, like all the meals, were a communal affair in the big dining room.The first run was a relatively gentle 7.5 miles to Annaberg, the nearby little town. This run was a steady uphill climb but it was lovely and relaxed and I felt strong and happy. The temperature was lovely and warm and it was sunny – I was glad to have remembered sun ran lotion! We stopped at a little spring to grab some water. It was cold and refreshing.This run was great because it allowed us to all chat and get to know each other. It was also nice to catch up with old running friends – some I made on last year’s Austria trip or other Marathon Talk meet-ups. Everyone was super friendly, the views were fantastic and it was just everything I love about running. 
No one caring about paces or minding to stop for photos. We eventually arrived at Annaberg (*cough* clearly my home town, eh). And we had a coffee and shared round some cake.Then we were back on the road to head back to the lodge. This was 6.4 miles, and started with a lovely downhill but then a fairly hilly climb. Basically most of the running we did was very lumpy! And while it was challenging, it was good fun.We had a great downhill section back to the lake which a few of us steamed off the front to stretch the legs a bit. I had the route on my watch (technology, eh!) and while I did stress to everyone I was probably the last person you’d want to trust with the navigation, we did manage to get back. I know, I’m as surprised as you. We got to the lake and immediately stripped off a few layers and got into the cold water. It was lovely!And then it was a quick march back to the lodge for lunch. Lunch was always a buffet affair with mostly cold meats, cheeses, salads and garlic bread. It filled a hole! We also had a good rule that no phones were to be used at the dinner table. This made sure that we didn’t switch off from each other. It was a good reminder to put the screens away and enjoy each other’s company. At first I was a bit twitchy (the self-confessed phone addict that I am…) but afterwards it became more natural. Rather than checking out my Strava of the run or going onto Instagram pointlessly, I chatted more and appreciated the time away. Don’t get my wrong, I still Instagrammed the shit out of everything but just not when I was sat around other people in times of chatting and being social! 😉In the mornings I got myself into a nice routine of waking up a bit earlier and doing a lap’s walk round the lake. It was about a half an hour walk and I found it helped loosen up my legs from the previous day’s run (something that became more needed as the week went on!) and it was a lovely peaceful time to listen to a podcast or music. I would often do an afternoon walk as well. As much as it’s lovely to be around interesting and like-minded people, it’s also nice to take some time out and just reflect on the day and have some “me time”. That sounds a bit “out there” but it’s something I really enjoy and why (amongst hundreds of other reasons) that I love having a dog.Anyway after my walk and breakfast, we headed out to Gemeindealpe where we caught a ski lift up to a half-way point of this very scenic mountain. Then we ran just over a mile basically straight up.I say run, there was lots of walking as well! And handily timed photo stops 😉Like many of the other runs we did this week, it was the same as last year, but this is no way made it any less beautiful or fun (/hard). It just meant I knew what was to come.We made it to the top, had a nice little break taking photos and having a drink in the café… and a bit of fun in the children’s park (possibly the most scenic children’s play area around) before heading off to then run across a ridge and then down the mountain.It was SO much fun. This was possibly my favourite day (though it’s a tough call). The run downhill started on compacted stony tracks but then descended into a forest and it was all about tiny quick steps across stones and branches. You had to use so much concentration to focus on not missing a step, not tripping over and not twisting an ankle. I loved it! Again a few of us stretched out ahead – but it’s OK guys, I’ve got the route on my watch! No problem!Except we did in fact go the wrong way when we reached the bottom. In fairness, it wasn’t entirely clear which direction we were supposed to go… as we got closer to the lake that sat at the bottom of the mountain I realised we’d made the wrong decision (I say “we” to shift some blame but realistically we all know this was my fault). It was fiiine. All we had to do was wade across a river, climb over a precariously built tall fence and then hack our way through a forest of giant leafy (and stinging) plants. Totally fine. Our Strava Flybe was somewhat amusing it must be said….Anyway everyone arrived at the lake safe and sound in the end – a solid seven miles. We were all very hot. The lake looked very inviting. And so did the giant slide! OK it might have been for kids but this didn’t hold us back. A bunch of us (yes Martin included) headed immediately for the slide. Bloody fantastic! And this lake was a lot less cold than our lake (not warm! But definitely a few degrees higher). Then we chilled with ice cream and a cold drink. I mean, what better way to finish a run eh?

That evening we chilled out watching the football with two giant bowls of crisps. Brilliant.The next day we had intervals planned. Now I know I’ve been on it with speed work fairly recently but with my calf being a bit sensitive and knowing that I would be doing so many miles on running over the week I decided it would be best if I didn’t do them. This might sound a little like I chickened out (and you’d probably be half right) but realistically it was me being a sensible runner. I know my body and I know when my calf is feeling sensitive the last thing to do is bosh out a load of sprinting. Plus I was in a certain frame of mind where I needed to get away from everyone for a bit and do a bit of solo running. Some escapism and Anna-only time.I ran with the guys to the spot where they’d be doing the intervals and then I headed out for a 10k run of my own. I was a bit dubious that I’d get lost on my own but I had a fairly simple out-and-back planned (if in doubt, Anna, always do an out-and-back). It was such a lovely run on my own. It was along a track under the trees and relatively flat until it got to a rather gruelling hill. It didn’t go on for too long though thankfully and then there was a glorious stretch of downhill which I gently plodded down, rather than powering down as I had the day before. This run was about the chill and ‘clearing my mind’ factor. A very lovely and gentle run, far better for my mind and body than blasting out crazy sprints.Afterward I watched the end of the intervals and then we all headed to the nearby café (the only café within a short distance of the lodge) and had a cold drink with everyone. That evening we had a fantastic BBQ (which included some locally roaming venison). We chilled, we chatted, and of course we ate 😀What I love about the Austria Run Camp is that it’s very much not just about the running. Yes the running is important of course but realistically by lunchtime we’re usually done. It’s just nice to chat to other runners from all walks of life in a relaxed and beautiful environment. I would find myself taking an impromptu nap on the sofa in the living room or chatting to Martin and the others about the pros and cons of social media, or lounging in the sunshine on the terrace just watching the world go by (and a very slow-paced world so far away from the crazy busy world I normally live in). The running was done in a relaxed way, nothing set in stone, nothing dictated… no real structured training or seriousness. This is the kind of running I love.

I’ll leave my recap there for now…

Have you ever been to Austria?

Do you enjoy more structured or relaxed training?

Have you ever been to a training camp?

parkrun and friends

After having a solid eight days off of running to let my running mojo reignite and my calf chill the hell out, I’m back to running. This was good timing as a few guys from work were heading to Lakeside parkrun (actually located next to where we work) and I was glad not to miss out.

It was Trystan’s first time at parkrun so I was really chuffed for him (being the parkrun nut I am). He’d only recently gotten into running so this was a step in the right direction. My friends Ed and Kyle were also coming so there was a nice bunch of us. It was a warm morning and none of us were planning on any crazy PB attempts but we decided to all just run separately to keep the pressure down and let us all just run however we liked.I’d had some acupuncture and massage from a really good local physio on Wednesday. I’ve mentioned him before (check out his website HERE – I fully recommend him!) and after that my calf was feeling good. I’d tested it out with a gentle 3.5 mile (a little niggly but much better) and then a 10k run with two guys from work, also fairly easy. So I was confident I would be OK. The calf felt on the mend! Hurrah.

I had every ambition of taking parkrun easy. My mistake was wedging myself forward in the start line-up because as we got going I found myself getting carried away with the people around me and running 7 min/miles pace. Slow. Down. Anna. Unfortunately the brain didn’t quite compute that and I continued on. My calf felt even less niggly than previous runs… if it had gotten worse I would have slowed down (I mean, in retrospect, you can really say anything can’t you? I hope I would have slowed down). I saw some familiar faces as I ran and we exchanged cheers and hellos. parkrun is always so friendly and of course this is quite a local one so you see lots of the same people about.

From the Facebook page

With Lakeside, there’s a lovely chunk where you’re running past the lake under the shade of the trees. Though as people were running along the sandy track it was lifting dust into the air which was a little disconcerting to breathe in. Though the annoying part about this parkrun is the final out and back bit where you run out into the sunlight again and then under an underpass – so two mini hills – before heading back the way you came to finish on a long straight. It can be a bit wearisome.

From the Facebook page

Anyway, I managed to gain on the first female and this only made me keep my speedy pace rather than be more sensible and slow down. But I still felt OK.
Kyle wasn’t too far behind me – apparently trying to catch me (spoiler he was just 14 seconds behind – though to be fair to him, he’d started behind loads of people. His watch time was very similar to my watch time). Ed wasn’t far behind either and Trystan smashed it with just over 27 minutes. My time was 21:30 which I was both happy about and annoyed at myself for. I should have taken it easy. But the calf felt OK at the end…fingers crossed.Trystan’s sprint finish was honestly amazing. I mean look at that determination!
We all had a great run. Trystan was pleased with his first parkrun and seemed keen to do another (yessssss parkrun convertee).It’s just so nice to have a beautiful morning and a great run with lovely people. Can’t beat that on a Saturday morning! I also got to catch up with the ever friendly Paul (check out his parkrun-full blog HERE). He’s a lovely guy and gave me some good parkrun tourism ideas. The guys and I then headed for a nice coffee in the Starbucks nearby. Good start to the weekend!

As for once I had no major plans, I enjoyed a nice dog walk with Alfie in the sunshine and watched the Germany vs. Switzerland match in the evening with my dad. I’ve actually been really loving the World Cup. I don’t usually watch football and know next to nothing about it but I do enjoy the World Cup time. I like how people get involved, talking about it and getting excited. Obviously I’d love England to do well but to be honest it’s just fun to be involved. Luckily at work we have a television which is showing all the matches so we can keep up with the games through the day.On Sunday I played it safe with going to a Les Mills RPM spin class (currently on 78) which properly kicked my butt. Who knew you could sweat from your elbow creases and shins? Obviously I’d much rather be running but these Les Mills spin classes are actually really good. The “virtual” instructors on the screen are so full of enthusiastic beans and the workouts are so tough you do feel properly worked out. My calf felt OK in the morning but I wanted to give it another day. I’m going to the Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp in a week so I wanted to be fighting fit for that. Fingers crossed.

After the gym I had a nice (albeit HOT) walk round Queen Elizabeth Country Park.It was very sunny and the trails around QECP are quite hilly. But it was a good walk nonetheless. A refuel was definitely needed afterwards. That came in the shape of a lamb and feta burger (done on the BBQ) with some very crispy chips at the Hampshire Hog nearby.
Followed by a VERY tasty brownie.

The brownie was SO good. It was so gooey, warm and fudgie. It rocked my world.

So a good weekend with a bit of running, a lot of sunshine, good food and fun times.

What did you get up to this weekend?

Have you introduced someone new to parkrun?

Have you tried any of the Les Mills classes before?

Celebrating my birthday and not running

So I’ve taken a week off of running. After the Jersey Half (and, let’s be honest, a good number of weeks of beasting myself with races and speedwork) I needed a break from running.

Basically mentally and physically I was kind of done. Don’t get my wrong, I’m super pleased with everything I’ve achieved but I’m genuinely pooped. I could feel it happening the week before the half and the half just pushed me over the edge. My calf had begun to niggle as well – which is always a sign of me over-doing things, especially speedwork. I’ve come to realise that it really doesn’t matter what kind of strength training I do, my calves will always be my weak point and I’ll always get niggles there. Maybe I need to strengthen them up? Foam roll them more? Do more stretching? Who knows. But I’m pretty sure my calf has started to niggle because I’ve ramped up the speedwork quite a lot recently as well as the volume of my running. I never learn but there we go.

The calf is feeling a lot better though and mentally I feel a lot more chilled. At the same time I also changed gyms. I just randomly decided to do this on a whim. I saw a new PureGym had just opened literally 5 minutes from my work (though my old gym was only further down the road so really the distance isn’t a thing) and it was offering a cheaper rate. I like PureGym and because it’s all new and swanky I thought I might as well change. As much as I did like my old gym, it was old and the changing rooms were a bit grotty. There was also no air conditioning.

Anyway on Saturday morning I decided instead of parkrun (to be all sensible and keep the calf happily getting better) I went to a Les Mills spin class (“Sprint”). I’ve been to many spin classes but never a Les Mills one. And at this PureGym (North Harbour one in Portsolent) they have a “digital coach”. This means that instead of having a real person guiding you through, there was just a huge screen where you watched some Les Mills coaches giving the session. That sounds pants, I know. But actually it was brilliant. The coaches were really good. And the room was all dark which strangely made things easier – but harder? Like you could just absolutely beast it out but without worrying about people seeing you gurning. I don’t know, it worked for me! Better to have a virtual amazing coach than a sub-part bored real instructor in my opinion. It properly destroyed me though. I was a sweaty mess at the end. I think I’m a relatively fit person… I’ve run marathons and stuff. But jeeze that killed me.Then I headed quickly home to get showered and sorted to meet my uni friends for a fun birthday meal. My 30th is on Tuesday so they were down to help me celebrate. We went to one of my favourite restaurants in Southampton, Sadlers, which serves insane smoked and BBQ food. I’ve been a number of times and it’s always fairly epic.Since Jersey I’ve been craving nachos like crazy. What is wrong with me?? But I didn’t just want to order nachos (though they were renowed to be a large portion). Thankfully though my friends came to my aid and we ordered two portions for the table to share. Whew! So I was free to order my own meal of ribs. Unfortunately compared to previous times I’ve been it seems that portion sizes have changed. I mean, I know realistically I’m the only one who’d be miffed at this because I have a monster appetite but I only got two ribs. I went for the smaller portions of ribs but STILL. £15 for two ribs? You’re joking. And also, no cornbread despite it being on the menu? I’m disappointed. The ribs were good don’t get me wrong but the portion size was a bit lame.I realise for normal people this would probably be fine. But Kate went for the larger portion of ribs and got four. She paid £5 more… I just think that’s a bit lame really. I remember ordering ribs and having loads. Like I couldn’t possibly finish them. Anyway, when I saw the portion size I quickly ordered a side of wings. The wings were lush! The nachos were good too but there were blobs of pulled pork rather than a layering. So again, a bit lame.

Despite the food being somewhat underwhelming, the company was fabulous so really I didn’t mind at all. The food was tasty and we had a good time regardless. It was lovely to catch up and see them all (especially as there are now two gorgeous babies in the group as well – not that I’m a particularly baby person but as babies go, they’re alright ones).Then we walked to Sprinkles down the road and had an immense pudding. I went for my usual Sticky Situation (lots of cookie dough, ice cream, chocolate and white chocolate). But ooof it was tough-going and I only managed HALF. What is even happening to me? Where has my monster appetite gone?!
It was just too much sweetness. But it was delicious. All in all a fantastic day. In July we’ll be going to Centre Parcs as a group to jointly celebrate all our 30th birthdays so that’ll be amazing.

Saturday evening I had a very chilled one (I was partly in a food coma if I’m honest) and watched the very strange film mother! I quite enjoyed it. Once I got on board that it was an allegory of the sixth day of creation from the Bible I found it a lot more engaging. But yeah, a weird one.

Sunday I had a nice lie-in and then took myself to another spin class (this time Spin RPM). If I thought the class the day before was hard I knew nothing. This was insane. I’ve never sweated so much in my life! And yet, as hard as it was, it was really good. Like I felt like I could properly push myself hard. My calf and everything felt fine so I could properly get into the workout and give it my all. I then did 30 minutes on the cross trainer at a light intensity. So though I didn’t get my beloved long run I did get a good sweat on and enjoyed a rather different workout.

Then I got home and ready super fast to head out for a joint celebration of Father’s Day and my birthday. My parents and I headed to The Pig in Brockenhurst. I booked this in April because it’s renowned of being super hard to get a table. We all kept remarking how lucky we were to be there on Father’s Day no less! The Pig was AMAZING. Like the whole setting was beautiful. A very rustic and old antique style to it.The restaurant was located in a like a large conservatory type room which was just beautiful. Lots of plants, pretty paintings and rustic style furniture. And the service was so good. Very attentive, you felt well looked after.We had mini starters before our regular starters (“Piggy Bites”) which were delicious. I had the Brock Eggs (eggs wrapped in shredded ham and bread crumbs), which tasted divine. And then for my actual starter I had the charcuterie board. Oh so tasty!!For main I had The Pig’s signature dish, the tomahawk pork chop with a creamy sauce and a side of Isle of Wight tomatoes and basil. Literally HEAVEN. It was so tasty. But of course there was just enough room for pudding…because, why not?I had the dark chocolate tart with toffee honeycomb ice cream. YES. A perfect way to end the meal. We all enjoyed our food and vowed definitely to come back at some point (for a special occasion, because it’s not cheap!).A fabulous way to celebrate Father’s Day and my birthday. Despite not doing any running for the weekend, I had such a good couple of days!

How did you spend Father’s Day?

Do you like going to posh restaurants? The Pig didn’t feel super posh but it was definitely not Nando’s!

Have you ever done a Les Mills class?

Jersey Half Marathon

Though my main reason to go to Jersey (other than to have a jolly with my mate, Mike) was to get my ‘J’ parkrun for the Alphabet Challenge, the timing of the trip was chosen due to the fact that there was also the Jersey Half Marathon.

We could have flown back Saturday afternoon but neither of Mike or I had been to Jersey so wanted to make the most of going there by also doing the race. We stayed another night in our quaint little guest house and my alarm was set for the rather leisurely time of 7am. I had those packages oats you add hot water to for breakfast and a pot of tea before we left to walk to the bus station to catch our shuttle to the start. We didn’t have to pay as it was all organised by the race.The weather was rather muggy and humid. You could see the moisture in the air. It was nicely overcast though and misty which meant though we wouldn’t get the best views of the seafront that we’d run next to we wouldn’t get the sun beating down on us. Though the humidity was annoying.Nothing like being shuffled together with other runners to make you nervous I can tell you. Everyone talking about PB’s, training runs and injuries. Neither Mike or I were feeling very ready for the race. Mike had had some time off due to illness and his furthest run had been a while ago. I was feeling tired and my calves felt tight and one of them felt niggly. I just wasn’t feeling a fast race at all. Weeks before, on my marathon and 5k PB highs, I’d viewed this race as another possible PB-attempt. I don’t usually have big goal races like this as in general I hate the pressure and quite like to just ‘enjoy’ races. However, rarely have I ever been in such good shape. Or so I thought anyway. After a week of rubbish feeling running, I was now backtracking that goal (standard Anna).After 20 minutes or so we’d arrived at the race start area where there were some proper toilets and a few portable ones. We peed, milled around and then dropped our bag (easier to share one bag) at the bag drop and then headed to the start. There were about 700 runners and as the roads weren’t closed it was a bit chaotic getting everyone across the road, but otherwise it was very organised and easy.I wished Mike good luck and decided to head nearish to the front. I’d decided to just see what happened – but give myself the best shot. Start running, see how the legs felt and go with the flow. If I went fast so be it, if I went fast and then flagged so be it. I had my Aftershokz on lined up with some good tunes. Then we were off!
The first mile was pretty much downhill the entire way. It was fantastic but also terrifying. My watch was saying 6.30min/mile pace – FAR too fast. This is my (good) 5k speed!! But I thought “ah what the hell, it is downhill”. I had two really irritating guys next to me getting far too overexcited, jumping about the place and shouting which I wanted to get away from too. They were flying all over the road and yelling and just being a bit mental.

Several people flew past me – including a number of females. Previously when I was eyeing up this race as a possibility of a fast run I’d checked last year’s results. The first female had got a time of around 1:33. As my PB was 1:34:30 I’d wondered if I could place in the top three. There were prizes for 1st, 2nd, 3rd as well as age categories. But as I saw all these girls fly past me I decided to put that dream to bed, as well as the fact that considering how fast I was going on the FIRST mile I was likely to detonate at mile four.

The problem with downhills is that it feels so easy, so when you eventually get back to the flat or an uphill it feels horrendously hard. Like, yes Anna this is what a 6.45 mile really feels like, you idiot. Mile two continued in a similar vein but I managed to pull myself back a bit, as well as the downhill levelled out a bit. But then suddenly we went sharply uphill as we pushed our way up a windy hill. Ooof that felt awful.

As the roads weren’t closed off there were a number of cars that had to slowly creep by us or wait for us to pass. You had to be savvy and aware of what was going on (Aftershokz hugely help with this, allowing me to hear what’s going on). The marshals were great of course but I can imagine it was tricky at times for them. There weren’t a huge amount of supporters as it was a fairly low key event, but it was nice when you passed a bunch and they cheered.

Around mile three I was feeling a bit low. I  knew I’d gone out too fast and now I was dealing with the aftermath of that. I kept going back and forth in my mind of what I should do for the race. I saw some Jersey cows grazing at the side of the road. I realised I hadn’t taken any photos of them on this trip (Jersey cows are are something Jersey is famous for, with their milk and cream). So I vowed the next lot I saw I’d take my phone out and snap some pictures, and that would take the pressure of the run and I could just have an “enjoy the scenery” run. The scenery was beautiful. It was very rural – lots of greenery, rolling hills and the sea next to us. But it was very misty so didn’t showcase it as could as it could have.

By mile four we were running down a long straight road. I started to cheer up a bit as I found my groove and had mentally taken the umming and arr’ing about how to run the course. I decided to just go with whatever and see what happened. I saw a few females ahead and noticed I was catching them. I used that as a distraction, idly wondering what position they were in.This massively helped keep my pace up. Trying to reach the next female, it gave me something to focus on suddenly. What also helped were the small pockets of people (literally 3-4 people). I smiled and waved and enjoyed myself. One guy shouted “you’re my favourite runner so far! She’s smiling!” which made me laugh. I mean, it was random but nice.

The day before I’d spoken to a fellow parkrunner who’d told me a bit about the course. She said there was a killer hill around mile seven but there was some nice downhill after. She also said the final 5k was normally straight against the wind as it was right on the promenade. So when we turned round the corner and hit a horrendous hill I wasn’t surprised. I saw a girl half-way up and decided to do my damnedest to catch her. Unfortunately there was also a photographer up the hill too… great. I’m sure I was gurning away nicely for the shot.

The hill seemed to go on forever and when it finally ended I felt the energy had drained from my legs. Happily I’d overtaken the lady I’d spotted, but then I spotted another female ahead. I was also aware that I needed to maintain my position. I made it my next mission to catch her. It was a good way to get my focus back and crack on.And then it was the blissful downhill. I decided to just go for it. Leg my legs go a bit looser and just lose myself. My pace cranked up but I just went with it. I was running the course for what it was and decided that if I could make up some speed here then so be it. I might crash later but whatever, let’s go crazy. Suddenly the course seemed familiar. I recognised this packed sandy track… we were leading on to the parkrun route I’d run the day before. How cool. Instead of turning around though where we did yesterday we carried straight on down the railway path.

These were the best miles. I was absolutely flying and loving life. I mean, it was downhill so it was pretty good. And I was picking off people as I went. But then I hit mile 11 and suddenly we were back on the flat and life was hard again. I hit the promenade, the sea on my right looking all misty and grey, and the wind was boom against me. The graft was on.It was literally like focus on every single breath, focus on every single step getting my closer to the finish and focus on the miles ticking down. There were two things that hugely helped keep my pace going. Number one there was a girl I could see in the distance, and I could tell I was gaining on her. And number two was the memory of maintaining seven minute miles for the last three miles of the Brighton Marathon. If I could do that at the end of a marathon I could do faster at the end of a half. It gave me great confidence and belief in myself. I wasn’t going to combust, I wasn’t going to break, I could keep going.

What amazes me is that I ran a sub-21 minute for the final 5k! Faster than my parkrun the day before, which felt pretty tough to me at the time. The wind wasn’t behind me and it definitely felt like “oh my god this is hard”. Minimal smiles and larking about now, I tell you. But no one overtook me.I caught the girl and couldn’t see anyone ahead now. This was painful and mentally hard to maintain the pace with no one to catch now (the other runners too far ahead) but I only had a mile or so to go. Two songs. Come on. I finally saw the finish area but as I turned round the corner to get there I was confused about where to go and headed where I thought it was (there was no big arch or anything). As I ran across the grass I saw loads of people yelling and pointing at me, telling me I was going to the wrong way! I had to quickly change direction, leap over a flower bed and actually go the right way to the finishing funnel. Whew!

As I finished I was gasping for air and feeling absolutely pooped. I walked slowly to the medal and t-shirt collection bit and then stood bent over with my hands on my knees for about a minute catching my breath before looking up at the lady who was stood staring at me waiting for my name. She laughed though when I apologised for making her wait.My time was 1:31:06. The race director came over and asked for my name and race number. I asked him where I’d placed and he said second female! The first female time was an absolutely belting 1:23. I mean whaaaat. I’d never have caught her in a million years but I’m super pleased I caught all the other ladies up (and 44 seconds ahead of the third female!). I was 28th overall (out of 529). I will take that! And a PB by well over three minutes!!!The prize giving was to be 6pm that evening but we were catching our flight at 2.30pm so I spoke to the race director. He said sadly I wouldn’t be getting my bottle of champagne then but he’d post my trophy. How cool! Also, turns out I’ll get two trophies: one for second female and one for first senior female (the lady who came first was a +40!!).I waited for Mike to finish, chilling on the steps drinking much needed water, before realising I should probably collect our bag. He finished in 1:56 which he was pleased with, considering he hadn’t trained for it and wanted to take it easier (his PB is around 1:45). He was very happy with how it’d gone, though he had said he had probably gone too fast and would have preferred it to have been 10 miles not 13 😉Then we literally had to quick march back to our hotel, shower and find some lunch pronto. It was now 11am and our flight was 2.30pm. We were going to get to the bus stop for 1pm so we were pushing it. In quick time we got sorted and then hit the street looking for somewhere to eat… Only to find that Jersey turns into a ghost town on Sunday. Literally no where was open. After desperately hunting around we found one of the only pubs open and thankfully serving food. We sat outside as it was warm and noticed several other half marathoners around us proudly wearing their medals and t-shirts. A happy crowd indeed.
I wasn’t hugely hungry or fancying anything crazy so stuck with a simple meaty wrap. Crazy I know. Then we hot footed it to Costa to get a coffee before grabbing a bus to the airport. Easy peasy.

Our trip to Jersey was great! I’m so chuffed I got the ‘J’ parkrun done – that was the most important thing. But I’m also hugely pleased with my new PB. In my head I wondered if I could get close to a 1:32 time when I was ‘feeling’ it, but the week before and the day of I honestly didn’t think I’d break 1:40, that’s how rubbish I felt. So to exceed that beyond what I could imagine, I am over the moon. It’s given me such confidence. I think what helped was racing it for a place rather than a time. Having those females to try and overtake massively helped and took away thoughts about what pace I should be aiming for. I literally just wanted to get past each one and that pushed me on.

I do wonder about those downhills though… I think they definitely helped. So part of me wonders whether to take this time with a pinch of salt. I have two half marathons later in the year that are flat though I might aim for one of those…but then again, this is me we’re talking about 😉

Have you ever not felt a race only to then do well at it?

Do you like a race with downhills?

Have you ever raced a race for a position rather than a time?

Jersey parkrun

I’m so chuffed I can finally say I’ve done the Jersey parkrun! Since I found out the parkrun Alphabet Challenge was a ‘thing’ I’ve been trying to do different parkruns hitting all the letters (apart from X – there isn’t one yet). It’s silly but I find it really good fun.

There are so many parkruns all over the UK (and the world) so it gets you to different places, meeting new people and just having a laugh really. Over this year I’ve managed to tick off quite a few letters. I’m strangely very proud of myself.

Anyway this weekend saw my friend Mike and I getting a flight from Southampton to Jersey so I could tick off ‘J’. Mike loves parkrun too but isn’t quite as mad as me with the Alphabet Challenge – though he’s now becoming more persuaded!I took a half day Friday so we could fly Friday afternoon. The flight was super easy and fast. We also both only packed hand luggage which made things even cheaper and easier. The plane was tiny and barely half full. We quickly arrived in Jersey and found a huge T-rex which was amusing!It even moved and roared! I love dinosaurs (weird I know) so this made my day straight away. We got out of the tiny airport and walked straight onto the number 15 bus. The buses in jersey are fantastic.It’s £2 for wherever you’re going. Handily one was going literally just then to St. Helier where we were staying. Twenty minutes later we arrived at Liberation Station, the main bus station. Super easy even for me! To be fair, neither Mike or I are the most savvy of people so it was highly likely something was going to go wrong on our little holiday… fingers crossed eh.We got two rooms at the Avoca Guest House, which was about a ten minute walk from the station. It was tiny and old school British quaint but it did the job and the owners were lovely and friendly. It was also cheap! It included breakfast but as we would be parkrunning Saturday and then half marathoning Sunday we wouldn’t be partaking.Bless Mike, he offered to take the smaller of the two rooms where the bathroom was shared with one of the other rooms (how weird) and I got the bigger room with an en suite. I was very grateful. Especially as I do always need a wee during the night.We ditched our bags and then headed for a walk to see the local area and to find some dinner. Unfortunately it seemed like the rest of Jersey also had this idea and most places were rammed. We tried a great looking little Mexican, La Hacienda, but it was fully booked. St. Helier is a small seaside town – very British but also felt a little bit French, which would make sense considering it’s proximity to the country. And the weather was beautiful. Sunny and warm!Eventually we found a place called the Canteen and Bar which looked reasonable enough. It wouldn’t have been our first choice but by this point we were super hungry and tired. We shared some falafels and chicken “cakes” and I had chilli beef and cheese on nachos (not my usual but after seeing someone with nachos in the Mexican I was now craving them) and it was very tasty.For pudding we decided to drop into a crêperie that we’d spotted on our meanderings. Mike had salted caramel and I had Belgium milk and white chocolate with honeycomb toffee crunch ice cream. Absolutely heavenly! Every bite was like an explosion of ‘to die for’ taste. I’m not usually a pancake or crêpe fan but this was just divine.Then we parted to our little rooms ready for parkrun in the morning. Through the night I was intermittently woken up by thunder and lightning. It went on pretty much the entire night and we woke up to it still carrying on and heavily raining. Uh oh. I’d only packed summer clothes and no coat! This had not been forecasted at all.Luckily I’d brought my umbrella and Mike was able to borrow one of the guest house’s umbrellas and we walked to the bus stop. We’d have gotten absolutely soaked had we not had umbrellas but it was still rather grim. I’d packed two options for that morning’s run (a strappy tank and my parkrun apricot t-shirt) and in the end wore both as I was cold. The bus journey took about 20 minutes and we picked up more parkrunners as we went. One of them told us that it might be cancelled due to the thunder and lightning and they were making a decision whether to go through with it or not. WHAT!!! Noooooo! Imagine coming all this way and not being able to get my ‘J’! Thankfully when we arrived I saw a Tweet that said it was to go ahead as long as the thunderstorm held off. Thank goodness.The parkrun was located next to the Les Quennevais sports centre. [Side note: check out Paul Jeffrey’s blog for some more good info on this parkrun]. We had a quick mosey about before heading back into the shelter of the sports centre. I had a quick wee and then eventually headed out for a mile warm-up. Absolutely necessary as I was quite chilly. The cycle track near the sports centre was exactly a mile which was perfect and gave us a good idea of what a section of the course would be like.We met lots of other lovely parkrunners as we waited about. There were a lot of tourists like us who had pretty much just come to do the parkrun (for the Alphabet Challenge like us) and some also doing the half the next day. There was one couple that had only flown in that morning and would be flying back out that afternoon. I mean that is mental! More mental that us…One woman, Marie, just had Jersey left to do for the challenge – which was super exciting. She also gave me lots of solid information about how to get ‘Z’ (Zary in Poland) and some tips on how to travel there and where to stay. Super helpful. She had a t-shirt made with all the letters she’d done. Very dedicated. Annoyingly I’d made the mistake of not bringing my cow cowl… everyone was wearing theirs!The first timer’s brief was hilarious because it was pretty much 80% of the field who moved over to hear the briefing. The marshal had to grab the megaphone so everyone could hear. And then we lined up ready to go. Though I’d checked the results for last week and seen over 300 people had done it, this week there was definitely less than 200. The run director did an introduction and then said “three, two, parkrun!” and apparently we were off! It was mental. I started running and realised there weren’t too many females ahead of me and decided to be stupid and throw caution to the wind and try and get first female. Stupid because of the the half the next day but ehhh.

I’d had a fairly rubbish week of running, with every run feeling hard and lethargic, so I was pretty sure the half wouldn’t go to plan, which is why I decided to capitalise on feeling good then and getting something out of the parkrun in terms of placing.

The first mile ran round the sports centre area on tarmac and had a slight, brief incline but otherwise was flat. Then we headed off along the railway line path which was compacted sand/trail and easy to run on. It was also nice and flat but you did have to do some puddle dodging. I managed to overtake the females in front of me and was now first girl. I felt the run was comfortably tough and the gentle rain helped cool me down – wearing two tops had not been the right decision!

After the first turnaround I realised the wind had been behind us and now it was against us… ehhh. Eventually though we ran down a small slope and got to another turnaround. It made me think, what’s better running downhill against the wind or running uphill with the wind behind? It didn’t matter hugely as we were soon heading out from this path and back to the tarmac where the finish was on the grass. I was surprised to get my token and see I’d gotten 7th place! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten such a high placing before. My time was 20:55. Happy days!But yeah, probably not the wisest decision. And my calf, which had been feeling super tight all week, was niggling a little. Of course. I signed the guest book and chatted to the others while I waited for Mike who wasn’t too far behind me (24:09). He too was supposed to be taking it easy but had run a bit harder than planned.We then headed upstairs of the sports centre to have a hot drink with a few of the other tourists. We enjoyed a lovely cup of tea with them, swapping running and parkrun stories. It’s so nice to meet people as crazy as yourself 😉 One of them, Richard, had got a hire car and offered to drop us back at our guest house which was very nice of him.

At this point Mike and I were ready to eat our own arms as we hadn’t had breakfast yet. It was about 1pm by the time we’d showered and found ourselves a cafe to eat in! It was a lovely place called Nude Food Cafe, which was kind of a health food cafe I guess. Lots of Buddha bowls, raw desserts and smoothies. We went for a rather healthified fry-up… poached eggs, pancetta, spinach, mushrooms, sweet potato and sourdough toast. It was delicious but I hoovered it up very quickly.Afterwards we shared a raw caramel shortbread. It was made out of coconut sugar, almost butter and things like that. It wasn’t overly sweet but it was nice.Thankfully it had stopped raining and was starting to brighten up. From the cafe we decided to randomly head north on the bus to go to do a bit of exploring. To be honest, our decision was down to what sounded good on the map and what bus was available within the next twenty minutes. So we headed to Greve de Lecq. It was to be an adventure!It was definitely a good choice though. The sun was out and we were at a beautiful bay.The beach had barely a handful of people on it and yet the sun was beating down. It was so beautiful. We obviously had to dip our feet into the sea as well. Stupidly I did manage to put my hoodie in the only puddle of water on the rocks…what an idiot. But as the sun was out I thankfully didn’t need it anymore.From the beach we then did a two mile hike along a clifftop path. It was a very windy and narrow path and at times very steep – not exactly ideal the day before a half but it was so beautiful and peaceful we didn’t care.This was such a random little excursion. We were so proud of ourselves to have found such a gem of a location and something fun to do that afternoon. I mean we were really just there for parkrun and the race, so everything extra was a bonus. And this was a definite bonus!Eventually we caught the bus back and headed straight to the Mexican from the previous night, determined to get ourselves seated. We literally rocked up as soon as it opened. Amazingly they had one tiny table available (apparently the restaurant is always booked up for two week’s in advance!).

I’m so glad we got this table because honestly this is one of the best tasting meals I’ve had in ages. Like literally every mouthful was an explosion of taste. It was incredible. I had chicken wings to start (I know, I know, always the same) and then ‘deconstructed’ lamb tacos for main. GOD it was good.Mike had a burger with slow cooked pork on it. Honestly the food was incredible. I never wanted it to end! I had churros for pudding which were delicious as well but really the tacos were the main event. Maybe not ideal food for the next day’s half but it was worth it!

I’ll save the half for another post…Have you ever been to Jersey before?

What is your Mexican dish of choice? Normally I love fajitas.

What’s the furthest you’ve ever travelled for a race or run?