Kingsbury parkrun and The National Running Show

So when you’re reading this I’ll be on my jolly way to Dubai. Exciting stuff! I didn’t think I’d write another post before I left but after such a fun and eventful weekend I couldn’t help myself.

I had Friday off of work as I was catching the train to Birmingham to see friends and go to the National Running Show (which I only found out was actually the first one they’ve done!). I did a quick gym session in the morning and some pre holiday jobs before my train left just before 1pm. Happily my dad was working from home and said he could drive me to Fareham station. My train was 12:47 and at 12:10 my dad said he was just going to take the dogs for a quick walk and we’d leave after that. Sounded good to me. I mean I the queen of last minute so I didn’t think anything of it.

By 12:30 he still wasn’t home and I was now very worried. I rang him a bit panicked asking where he was – it would take just about 10 minutes to get to the station and I needed to pick my ticket from the machine. It was very very close! He replied saying he thought my train was 1pm… Erm nope! He rushed home but by that time it was 12:40 and we’d never make it. In the end we had to zoom to another station down the line (Southampton Airport). To say I was stressed was an understatement, especially as I could only get that train and it cost me £72!!! Sweaty bum indeed.

Thankfully we arrived in time. And funnily enough it worked better for my dad as it was on the way to his work where he needed to drop in for the afternoon. We both wondered why we hadn’t done this in the first place… Yeah I don’t know either. I got to Birmingham without any more issues and met with my lovely running friend, James (@runeckers on Instagram). We had a nice time catching up – actually only the third time we’ve met in “real life” but we just get on so well.

We went out for a few drinks in Birmingham. We went to a bar called Bacchus and then the Postal Vaults. Very cool places indeed. I kept trying to perfect my Brummy accent but apparently I’m not there yet. More Peaky Blinders required! After that we headed to The Rub Smokehouse and met with our friend, John, who we both knew from Marathon Talk. James knew John from one of the Sandy Ball run camps and I knew John through the Austria run camp… Weird how connected it all is.

We had a couple of cocktails to start. James had a “Walking Dead” and I had an “Afternoon Tea” (which I originally poo-pooed for sounding weird…). It came out in a teapot (but wasn’t warm thankfully!) with a tiny glass of prosecco to add (like the milk I guess?). It was very tasty. I love how funky the cocktails were. Nice to have a bit of fun with that sort of thing.For my main I went for a full rack of ribs, half a chicken and pulled pork cheesy chips. I realise how disgustingly greedy this is. But it tasted amazing, and I don’t waste food. The food was epic… I mean there was a “pizza taco” on the menu – basically a 16 inch pizza folded up full of pulled pork chicken and battered prawns.John had a far more restrained steak and James had a monster burger with a corn dog on top. It was that kind of place… epic.My ribs were very tasty and the chicken was SO GOOD (as someone who regularly eats a lot of Nandos I can say this was top notch).For pudding I went for a white chocolate brownie with ice cream. Their sister company Brownie Heaven makes the brownies and I’ve heard they’re amazing.Don’t get me wrong, it was incredible, but TINY. I looked enviously at James’ pudding choice… Two doughnuts stacked on top of each other with Nutella, peanut butter and ice cream. Fortunately (for me) he struggled with the second doughnut so I got to help him out. But it left me very full indeed!It was such a lovely evening. The three of us get on so well and could probably talk about life, the universe and on for hours. It was a great evening. John headed back to his hotel (he’d been there for work) and James and I went back to his flat, where I was staying on his sofa. My night’s sleep though was terrible. Nothing to do with the comfort of the sofa (it was lovely) but I kept waking up and my heart was racing (usually I’m around 49-52 bpm at night but it was close to 75!) and I had a lot of hot flushes (meat sweats I guess…). My own fault I’m fully aware!

The next morning John, James and I headed to Kingsbury Water parkrun. This was handy for me as I needed a K for my parkrun Alphabet Challenge. It was quite the miserable morning, drizzling with rain and very cold. All three of us were happy to run round together at no great speed (relatively speaking). I was keen to not stress my calf out which was feeling good, John’s on his way back into running after some time off and James is semi-injured. Normally James and John would be roaring ahead of me!The parkrun was lovely and scenic. It goes round a lake and is a two lapper (my favourite). It’s a very picturesque and of course friendly parkrun. Though it was flat it was also very muddy underfoot. I doubt I could have blasted a super fast time if I’d have been fit enough to do so anyway. It was quite slippy. We chatted as we ran and enjoyed the views. A lovely social run.We got just over 24 minutes and significantly muddy! I felt very bad getting back into James’ car as we didn’t have any towels.When we got back to the flat (John joining us this time) we took turns showering and got some breakfast before heading to the NEC for the Running Show.The Running Show was good. It was basically like a race expo with lots of stands with brands representing their gadgets, clothes, races, nutritional products, foam rollers and more.It was nice to wander round and see different things, try out a foam roller and try some “vitamin coffee”.It was ridiculously busy and very hot though.It was a great event with a lot of potential to grow. The bigger brands like adidas, Nike and Brooks weren’t there surprisingly but I imagine after the popularity this year they’ll be there next year. I will say though that had I travelled 2.5 hours on a train by myself just for the event I might have been a bit disappointed because it did feel very much like an expo. Though to be fair I didn’t sit and watch any of the talks… So I guess I can’t judge entirely fairly. We just didn’t fancy sitting watching anyone as nothing took our interest.I saw lots of friendly and family faces, like Mary from A Healthier Moo blog (bless her, I don’t know how she does it with her crazy long distance running, night shifts and looking after her adorable son, Oscar). I also saw numerous Instagram legends, like Carl from @BigCarlRunning as a guest expert inspiring everyone around him. And of course Marathon Talk friends and friendly faces from my club. And of course the lovely Anji from @Enigmagirl81 who I’ve never met in real life but chat through social media regularly.It was a very friendly place. We gained Michelle in our group (a super fast and lovely girl originally from my running club but now living in Bister – she came to Austria too so knew John as well. All four of us will be going to Sandy Balls run camp in February).After a few hours we headed to the outlet shopping centre, Resort World, where we checked out the Nike shop (I got myself a £14 top!). Then a late lunch/early dinner in Nandos. I can only get one thing from Nandos really. I do feel bad for the sheer amount of meat consumed over the weekend but it was an out of the ordinary thing…And then it was time to part ways and head home. Always a sad thing when you’ve had such a good time together. I wish we lived closer!

Have you ever been to Birmingham?

Did you go to the National Running Show?

What would you like to see at a running show?

Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun and a fake long run

This weekend I had a change of plans which meant I was no longer going to Bristol. Bit of a shame but I’ll meet up with my Bristol mates soon.

This meant the world was my oyster when it came to parkrun… which, which to do? My work friend, Kyle, has been getting into running and we’ve run a few times together during lunch and he asked if I fancied joining him at Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun. I’ve never done Lakeside and it was his first parkrun so I was definitely game.IMG_2771Lakeside is actually around the lake right next to my office (you can see the office in the photo above) – where I run on a regular basis! It did feel weird driving there Saturday morning and not actually going to work. It was nice it being so close by that I could get up at 7.50am and be there for 8.40am to meet Kyle. Though my alarm was set to silent which wasn’t particularly useful! Luckily I have a well trained body clock and work up at 7.53am. Whew!It was a cold and slightly breezy morning. Kyle was in shorts and t-shirts and just looking at him made me feel more cold!! Though I was in shorts (obviously, #shortsforever) I was in a long-sleeved top but it was very chilly. The Run Director did a great job of keeping us entertained in the chilly weather. He had a good mix of sternness to those parking in the wrong spots and humour – and explained yes he was in fact a teacher. Haha made a lot of sense.

IMG_2814Photo Credit: Connor Eaves

I had warned Kyle of the excessive clapping involved in parkrun (event number 90 *clap*, volunteers *clap*, milestones *clap*). Least our hands were warm… Then we lined up and got ready to start. It’s always tricky to know where to put yourself at the start at a new event. Evidently we were too far back and spent the first kilometre overtaking and trying to politely get past people.Lakeside parkrun is lovely and about 95% flat. You run out to an underpass area where you then turn round to come back (so a slight incline) and then head round the lake (entirely flat), where you then turn around again and head back to the underpass bit and then head back to the finish, where you started. Being flat it is a fast course in that respect but having three complete about turns will definitely kill your stride and flow so if you are looking for a PB be aware of this.

IMG_2815Photo Credit: Connor Eaves

Kyle and I ran together. He’s quite quick for such a new runner (I’m sure he’ll be speeding ahead of me in times to come if he continues). We were around 8 minute miles and chatted as we ran. It was a bit breezy but nothing terrible – happily a nice tail wind on the way back to the finish.

IMG_2816Photo Credit: Connor Eaves

Towards the end I told Kyle if he fancied sprinting off he should. I wouldn’t be as I wanted to be careful with my calf, which was starting to feel a lot better. It still wasn’t 100% amazing but it was definitely on its way. Kyle did indeed sprint off and finished ahead of me. He looked very strong finishing! Brilliant first parkrun indeed. I’m sure he will cut his times down quickly.Screen Shot 2018-01-14 at 16.01.10My time was 24:55 and Kyle’s was 24:51. Brilliant! My calf felt good afterwards as well, which I was over the moon about. Whew! I then bumped into the lovely Paul who writes a lot of parkrun tourism blogs and, AMAZINGLY, ran 14 marathons last year!!! Like seriously. What a legend. His blog is great as well, check it out.Kyle said he enjoyed himself which was the most important thing and would be up for doing more! Awesome news, another parkrun convert. Obviously a selfie had to mark the occasion of course 😉 Lakeside has a Starbucks right next to the finish which is always a winner, though I really don’t need to give them any more of my money as it is!IMG_2779I spent the rest of the day doing the usual weekend chores (adulting is so much fun, right?) and then went shopping with my mum. I managed to find TWO pairs of jeans in Top Shop that fit perfectly. I’m definitely a fan of their Jamie range (I no whave three different pairs…). I also spent my £30 Accessorize voucher as well (two necklaces, and sunglasses and a bikini cover-up in the sale!). Definitely a successful trip.I then had to make a decision whether I’d run Stubbington 10k or not the next day. I mean, my calf felt fine and hadn’t niggled a significant amount during the run but I worried that by not letting it rest a day before running again I would stop it on its road to recovery and just prolong the issue. I picked up my bib and t-shirt anyway just so I had the option but ultimately when I woke up on Sunday morning I decided to not do it. If I’m honest, it wasn’t particularly a race I’d be sad to miss. Firstly it’s a 10k, which I hate, and secondly it basically runs around the area I live in (and regularly run round anyway). Yes it would be sad not to run with my club and see the friendly faces but there would be other times.

I could tell myself I’d run in easy but I know on the final stretch I’d probably increase the pace and the last thing I need to do is encourage the calf to feel rubbish again so close to the Dubai Marathon. So instead I headed to the gym for a purely cardio-focused session. As the Stubbington 10k literally runs near my parents house (the start line is a two minute walk up the road) I did have to be strategic when I left to make sure I got out before any of the road closures happened. Thankfully I had no issues, but I could see that ten minutes later I would have been blocked in.

I spent a solid hour and twenty minutes on the elliptical machine. It sounds ghastly doesn’t it? I won’t lie, it wasn’t exactly the funnest thing I’ve ever done but I watched Black Mirror to help pass the time. I watched the second to last episode (Metalhead) and jeeze it stressed me out!! Then watched the start of the next one which honestly wasn’t much less stressful. I can’t binge watch these programmes, they’re just too close to home and thought-provoking.

I was happy with my cardio session and to be honest it was far better than doing the 10k. I was able to simulate a long run much better (though obviously it’s not the same without the actual pounding on the ground etc. but it’s something). And the calf felt fine, so definitely the right decision to have been made. I hope to run today… I’m just hoping it’ll continue to be as positive as I get closer to Dubai (I leave next Monday and the marathon is the Friday!)

Have you ever done a parkrun with a newbie?

Do you like a post-parkrun coffee?

Do you have a certain shop you always go back to for comfort and fit when it comes to jeans? Top Shop always seems to work for me surprisingly.

Reading Half training day and lots of cake

This weekend was quite busy with me being in both Reading and then Brighton. I was in Reading for the Reading Half Marathon Training Session.

I’ve never done an event like this so I was quite excited about what it would entail, even if it did mean missing my usual parkrun 😉 It was nice to mix things up a bit. On Saturday morning I had a quick breakfast and got myself going at 8.30am. Surprisingly for me I arrived bang on time  for 9.30am – in fact, earlier than other people! Normally I’m late!IMG_2597I finally got to meet the lovely Tess (who writes the great blog The Fitbits) who I know through social media. She’s just as lovely in person as she is online – and, I hope she doesn’t mind me saying this, she is TINY but full of energy!

The session involved lots of different bits. We got to meet the Reading Half Marathon Run Director, Judith Manson, who was lovely and friendly and got us all excited about the upcoming event (18th March – there are still places available FYI, as well as a competition to win a place HERE).

Then we had a workout with the Townsend Twins, Francesca and Chloe, who will be doing the warm-up before the half marathon on the day. IMG_2568They took us through a solid body-weight workout involving squats, single leg deadlifts and lunges etc. followed by a core-focused workout. They gave us options to make it easier or harder which was nice as there was a variety of skill level within the room. They had a great energy and kept us going.D7B7CB84-E4D8-4528-92E8-FCAB2829CE66Then Ali Galbraith took us through a discussion on pacing.IMG_2574He gave us some good tips on how to pace our ideal race. Some of his points included:

  • Having a good knowledge of the course so you would know when the tricky sections were like any hills so you wouldn’t panic when your pace decreased and where you could pick it up later.
  • Not going off too fast at the start (such an underrated tip – this is my biggest tip to anyone when doing a half or a full marathon. It is SO easy to get over-excited at the beginning and then burn out).
  • Practising your goal pace during your training.

And other top tips. Most of it was familiar to me but the tip that stood out was having a good knowledge of the course.D0B739E2-1DE7-4711-A245-3FE21DF0E41CFor some strange reason I don’t like to look at course maps too much because it’s almost like I don’t want to ruing the surprise for myself… which is ridiculous. Too often I have very little awareness of what’s coming up in the race. So I took this point away with me to change.IMG_2606Then we headed out for a 5k run. What I really liked about this (and the workout before) was that the warm-ups weren’t the old school static stretches. It was all dynamic movements to get the muscles warmed up, things like leg swings, squats and lunges. Far, far better! There’s no point stretching cold muscles.IMG_2593The run itself was good. We split off into groups due to everyone differing in paces. The group I was in had a pace of 8.30-9 minutes per mile which was led by Ali. The run was around the local area and took in the first mile of the Reading Half Marathon, so we could get a feel of what race day would be like (though I have run Reading twice before, but not the new course).IMG_2596Then we headed around the Madejski Stadium before heading back. It was a lovely crisp cold morning which we all agreed would be perfect weather for the race day. My calf felt a little uncomfortable but nothing major.Reading runThen we all met up back at the conference centre the event was held in and had our final session which was with Jim from the Berkshire Physio. They would be at the Half Marathon too – so if you need any advice or post-race massage, they’re your guys!IMG_2599Jim was super knowledgeable and pretty much everything he said he backed up with research. He talked about RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) as a treatment for an injury and also gave us some great stretches and strength exercises to keep us injury-free. One of the best exercises he gave us was called the “slump” and involved “neural flossing” of the Sciatic nerve. Instead of stretching your hamstrings with the standard static stretch, he recommended this exercise. Basically you sit on a table and slump your back to relax your spin with your chin to your chest, then you straight one leg and then bring it back down again. You continue to do this, and should feel things loosen from your leg to your back if you’re really tight. Apparently this is “flossing” your Sciatic nerve and helping to reduce tension and tightness. Obviously my explanation is a bit pants, so I recommend you google it if you’re interestedIMG_2570The event was well run and a good session. It was nice to meet fellow runners and to chat about training and things like that. I met the lovely Tamsyn from the blog Fat Girl to Ironman and Katie and Kate from the blog These Girls Do. So a fantastic bunch! I’m really looking forward to the Reading Half now 🙂

Then I hopped back in the car around 1.30pm and headed to Brighton. I hadn’t really planned lunch and didn’t really want to stop for anything proper as I just wanted to get there so I pushed on through. I did however eat four apples to keep me going. I’m not AnnaTheApple for no reason 😉

I got to Brighton and met up with my lovely friend, Charlotte. I was staying over for the night ready for a baby shower celebration the next day with my uni friends. I managed to persuade her into ordering an early dinner from Deliveroo as I was past the point of hunger and dangerously close to hanger. We ordered from a Turkish place called Almoosh Snack which we did the last time I stayed. I went for the mixed grill (which was HUGE but absolutely perfect for my hunger levels) and Charlotte ordered a large halloumi wrap and tabbouleh salad.IMG_2602My mixed grill was as I remembered it (lots of chicken wings, lamb mince koftas etc. on a bed of rice) but Charlotte’s was literally just slices of fried halloumi and her salad. It was definitely not a large wrap – and certainly missing the garlic sauce and pickles described on the menu! I rang up to complain and the man did apologise and said Deliveroo must have given us the starter version. He didn’t really offer a solution though… I’m still going to look into this further as it was a disappointing. Charlotte had to add a bagel to make it into an actual meal. Hmmm. Despite this, we had a lovely evening watching Hidden Figures (so good) and lots of First Dates (such addictive trashy TV).IMG_2609The next day I had a fabulous lie-in and then headed out into the bitter cold for a 4 mile run. I had intended on going a bit further (maybe 6 miles) but the calf was just not happy. I’d warmed it up and done some exercises before going out but it was no Bueno. It just felt so uncomfortable every time my foot hit the ground. IMG_2608The run location was lovely – the weather cold and windy but bright and the promenade was just full of fellow runners and a beautiful view of the sea. But I headed back and called it a day. 4 milesAfterwards there was a dull but non-specific ache in the calf. Hummm. Yeah I probably shouldn’t have run after running the day before. I never learn.

Our other friends soon arrived and we all headed to Metrodeco, a very quirky and friendly café in Brighton, for afternoon tea. We didn’t do any crazy crazy baby shower games but we did have a fun game where we couldn’t say “baby” and had pins that we’d try to win off of people when we noticed someone saying it. Very good fun! And probably safe to say I lost…IMG_2623The afternoon tea was amazing. There were open sandwiches of ham, salmon, creme cheese and brie. A large scotch egg sliced up, two mini fruit scones, a chocolate brownie, a mini red velvet cupcake and a selection of fruit tarts.IMG_2625We also had unlimited tea from a very large selection. I chose the Puer Tea, simply because I’d heard Victoria Beckham drank it because it was healthy (haha I’m ridiculous I know) but actually it was delicious and complimented all the sweet foods perfectly. It was like a refreshing and gentle black tea. We could change our teas whenever we fancied but I stuck with that one.IMG_2626The whole afternoon tea was so good! We could ask for more creme (clotted of course) and jam and the service was just super friendly and helpful. And, as usual, I played the human dustbin and helped where people needed it 😉 It’s become worryingly easy how my stomach can put this stuff away!

Then we played some more games (quizzes, no horrible baby shower games involving nappies!), the mother-to-be opened presents and then we headed off home. A lovely weekend with lovely people 🙂

Have you ever tried Puer tea?

Do you enjoy the games usually played at baby showers?

Are you running any half marathons this year?

Double parkrun and Christmas

Another Christmas done! This year felt very quick indeed. For the first time in MANY years I’m back at work during the three days between Christmas and New Year so it hasn’t really felt like a proper Christmas at all. But hey ho, such is life when you need to take a chunk of holiday in January!

The weekend before Christmas was a bit weird. It felt odd having such a big lead-up to the day. I guess I’ve gotten used to the past couple of years where you finish work on the Friday and then it’s Christmas very soon after. Did anyone else feel this? Or maybe it was just more noticeable to me because I would be back at work on the Wednesday.

On Saturday I decided instead of going to the Netley parkrun or anywhere further afield I would go to Lee-On-Solent instead. This meant I could also run there and back and get a solid 10 miles in and then I wouldn’t have to worry Sunday. Not only that but I’d be running on Monday for the Christmas parkrun. My calves have weirdly felt very tight so I didn’t want to push things. On that note, it’s weird because they started feeling tight after I changed my trainers a week or so before the marathon (I went from Adidas Boost Supernova Sequences to ASICS Gel Exalts) and my calves felt TERRIBLE. So I tried to buy new Supernovas ASAP but as I’m an idiot I’d already thrown away the older trainers so had to continue using the ASICS until the new ones arrive and this just made my calves feel worse.IMG_2109During my run to parkrun they still felt tight and the left one uncomfortably so. As my legs were still tired from the marathon I decided not to push parkrun. I turned up to Lee and saw so many people wearing festive fancy dress… ahh damn!IMG_2086I love fancy dress and happily would have joined in (though saying that, I’d have had to have run there and back so maybe it was for the best…). My friend Rebecca had made a fantastic effort as a Christmas pudding – she looked amazing! IMG_2085There was also a band playing festive tunes which was lovely. Lee splitsMy time was 22:18. (for my 158th parkrun!). I then headed off home soon after. On my run home I spotted confetti on the floor in lovely shades of pink and purple. As I passed it by I briefly thought “ahh that matches my running gear” and as I got to the top of the road I decided it was too good an opportunity to miss so turned around and went back to do a very “Insta-worthy” photo – one for the ‘gram as all the kids are saying 😉IMG_2115The rest of the day was spent sorting stuff out for Christmas (food, tidying, presents, etc.). My dad had braved the food shops with my grandad (who was down from Stoke) so I’d missed that joyous job (ha!).

On Sunday I had contemplated another run but with my calves not feeling right at all I decided a day of rest was best. I cursed myself for writing a bloody blog post on not being injured. Honestly, I do know how to tempt fate don’t I? Never, EVER again will I be so arrogant to assume I’m out of the runner god’s sniper sight.IMG_2134Instead I went out with my family to Romsey where we’d be reliably informed (by Facebook no less…) that there would be a Christmas market. Well, I assure you it was not a Christmas market. It was just a market and really wouldn’t have been out of place any day of the year. But hey ho. There was a gin stand (my mother was happy!), pies, meat, vegetables, bread and cakes. Not bad but not Christmassy. We had a nice walk round Romsey, which is a very quaint English town and then headed home for an evening watching films (finally saw Sully, brilliant!) while doing a jigsaws puzzle. Rock and, indeed, roll.IMG_2140Christmas morning I was off to Netley for the annual Christmas parkrun. My dad was going to come but as the turkey had still been frozen the day before it meant he needed to attend to it that morning (usually my parents cook the turkey overnight). To be fair, it was probably for the best as the weather at Queen Victoria Country Park was AWFUL.IMG_2146I headed down early to help set-up and we all miserably set a “skeleton” course out (which basically means we didn’t do all the flags and cones because the majority of people coming that day would have come before so would know where to go and it would mean we could pack up quicker to go home at the end).IMG_2147The wind was blowing an absolute gale. As we were on the winter course it meant that we were right next to the water’s edge and it was so cold and wild. I had come dressed in my elf outfit and was quite thankful for the extra layer of wool and hat!IMG_2153The wind along the front was AWFUL and I felt so unfit struggling against it, especially going up the hill. But by mile two I managed to feel a bit more “with it”. My left calf was really not happy though. Bugger. It was painful, just felt very stiff and tight. Not right at all. Hmmm, time to have a bit of rest then! Netley splits

I finished parkrun in 23:35 which wasn’t too shabby at all. Christmas parkrun in my view is never one to blast – it’s a good festive run. IMG_2165It was rather muddy though!IMG_2152There was a table of snacks and Bailey shots set up, people dressed up and Christmas music. It was good fun.

IMG_2171Thanks Beth for the photo!

My friend Nick, who is part of the set-up crew, came first (he’s very speedy) and we joked that he’d gotten “Christmas number one”. Hilariously he replied that it seemed fitting as Ed Sheeran, a fellow ginger, had also gotten the Christmas number one. Hehe.IMG_2161We packed up quickly and I headed off home ready to start Christmas properly! My sister and Mike were already there so I quickly got showered and sorted ready to open presents with everyone. We’re the type of family who opens presents first. It’s all very chaotic and crazy with wrapping paper everywhere, my mum offering cups of tea or bucks fizz, a strong delicious smell of turkey, the dogs trying to eat everything and everyone trying to get to grips with who’s got what from whom. I love Christmas with my family and wouldn’t change a thing!

To add to the stress my dad and I thought it would be a great idea to make a pudding this year. As both him and my mum are still doing Slimming World (and doing very well!) he decided the Slimming World Chocolate Log would be perfect (amongst all the other puddings of course). So we quickly got to work on that. Obviously though, as is Apple Family standard, we were missing self-raising flour (why on earth would you check these things beforehand right?). Luckily we had normal flour and baking powder so we went with that!

And as usual we didn’t read the instructions properly to realise that once it comes out of the oven you need to roll it and then let it cool. Well, we just left it to cool flat. IMG_2173So when it came to adding the filling and trying to roll it stone cold…well, it didn’t quite work.IMG_2174That said, it did hold its shape and actually tasted very nice! Not really my sort of thing it must be said as I’m not a huge fan of chocolate and fruit together but it was a nice addition to the other puddings I had 😉Christmas dinnerWe had a prawn starter (basically just prawns with either a sweet chili dip or a Marie Rose dip, delicious!), followed by turkey with all the trimmings and then a slice of the chocolate log… and maybe some trifle and lemon tart as well 😉

Then we played an awesome but very simple game called Bottle Top.IMG_2195You basically have to stack wooden coins on top of a bottle. The aim is to lose all your coins and not knock any coins off, but you can’t go higher than nine levels. It’s very tense!

The rest of the day was spent enjoying time with the family, playing with my puzzle (I’m fully addicted and almost finished my LOTR-themed puzzle) and eating more food. I had a lovely evening snack of Christmas cake (from Betty’s tea shop in Yorkshire!) and stollen.IMG_2201Heavenly! We did manage our annual Christmas walk down the beach with the dogs but it was SO windy and wild it was very much “heads down, go go go” kind of walk. Only a handful of other dog walkers seemed to brave the weather like us. It was good to get out though and the dogs needed the run.

A successful Christmas indeed.

How was your Christmas?

What did you have for Christmas dinner?

What are your family traditions?

The Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 2017

The Portsmouth Coastal Marathon was the first marathon I ever signed up to. Sadly I never made it to the start line as a runner, but I have supported the race so it wasn’t entirely new to me.

I was initially excited about the marathon when I finally got myself a place (it was sold out when I tried to enter it but managed to find a place from a friend of mine who unfortunately couldn’t run). But as the date got closer and the weather colder, my enthusiasm dwindled away. The night before I chatted to my parents saying I was genuinely nervous and worried about the race. I had no “oomph” to do it and felt a bit meh. Normally I’m nervous, yes, but also excited to get going. I just didn’t feel like I was about to run a marathon the next day.IMG_1916Happily I slept well and woke up with a renewed vigour. I’d gone over the race in my mind and was feeling a bit more ready (I find mentally going through the miles and my plans help calm and motivate me). I woke up at 6.30am, ready to leave with coffee, my Beet It shot and porridge to have en route at 7.15am. The marathon began at 8.30am, which is quite early for UK marathons but handily the start was only about 30 minutes away.IMG_1920My dad was coming to support (bless him) and had heated the car up ready which was divine…for all of about 10 minutes before we both found ourselves sweating. It was a very cold morning but the combination of the heaters, my coffee and porridge just made me overheat. The night before I’d umm’ed and arr’ed about what to wear before settling on a thicker long-sleeved base layer, my ever faithful thick sports bra, arm sleeves, a buff and my running club vest. Still in shorts but with my long compression socks. I was really worried about being too cold but also about being too hot. The arm sleeves and buff would be ideal as I could remove them if necessary (I did indeed remove the buff, but not the sleeves). I considered a hat but with the headphones I wanted to wear it just didn’t work. I wore my winter coat to the start and genuinely never felt cold the entire race – even when I was stood on the start line. It very much helped that up until five minutes from the start I was inside the Pyramid Centre (where the HQ was located). It’s a very relaxed affair so getting to the start minutes before we were off was about as good as it can ever get.IMG_1924The start is right on the Southsea prom, just a few metres from the parkrun start. The sunrise was spectacular! IMG_1945It was a beautiful morning and all my nerves disappeared. All I had to do was run. It was flat, I was warm and I had no time goals other than not to run like an idiot (i.e. not too fast). I was somewhat concerned with how late I’d left eating my breakfast (only an hour ago…) but actually it was fine.

IMG_1951I felt well fuelled running and had two SIS gels packed in my running belt.IMG_1949The first two miles ran up the promenade, past the pier and the cafes. There were lots of people cheering and it felt very relaxed and festive with people wearing fancy dress and familiar faces all round from local clubs and social media.IMG_1932I hadn’t had a chance to go to the loo before starting because the queue was too long (there was also a half marathon and an ultra happening). Plus I knew I’d need to stop anyway at some point because I’d drank that coffee so late. There was a proper loo just before two miles so I was aiming for that. Luckily no one was in it and I managed to dash in and out with no issue. It seems to be a thing for me now to always have a wee in a marathon *sighs*. Now I could relax and get these boring beginning miles past me. My dad drove past and beeped an excessive number of times – but it did make me smile. Off he went to his first supporter point.IMG_1953It’s a relatively small marathon, with around 900 runners. Despite this though, I was never alone. There were always runners near me. A significant part of the course at the beginning snakes along coastal paths so you’re always following someone. As we got to mile three we came to halt as there was a bottleneck to get safely down the steps onto the beach section. I was well aware of this section, having been warned by fellow runners, so I wasn’t surprised by it. And since I wasn’t aiming for a fast time I didn’t mind the  stand-still moment. My only annoyance is that I didn’t make the most of the time by taking a photo! I was wearing nice thick gloves and the effort of taking on off and fishing in my belt for my phone seemed like too much effort at the time.

I felt a little sorry for the marshals who were continually shouting to runners to not try and sneak round and go an unsafe way down to the beach to beat the queue. You could feel the anxious energy around as people hopped from one leg to another, keen to get on. Finally we were onto the beach and off again…across the pebbles and sand. It only lasted a few minutes though and then we were back onto the path once more.IMG_1933You could see where we were heading – the course hugged the coastline – and the runners further ahead. Someone near me commented that it was like one big runner conga. You couldn’t really pass anyone but the speed was perfect for me. Not quite the 9 minutes I had told myself, closer really to 8.20-30. But I felt very comfortable (a good test for me is being able to run and breathe easily through my nose and to be able to easily hold a conversation).IMG_1935The course is entirely flat, but not entirely easy. The mix of terrain (tarmac, sand, pebbles, mud and trail) makes it tricky underfoot, but in my opinion it keeps you entertained. It’s an out and back route, following the Portsmouth Harbour. As the day was so still and so clear the views across the water were fantastic. The sun rising created beautiful picturesque colours and everything was very peaceful. Hands down one of the most beautiful marathons I’ve done. And believe me, I NEVER thought I’d say that about a marathon in Portsmouth…IMG_1984The miles ticked away fairly nicely. My first milestone was 6 miles as this would be my dad’s first spectator point.1-6 milesI could see the point from a distance and it gradually drew closer and closer. I listened in to people’s conversations as they chatted away, but was quite content to not get involved. IMG_1982I just switched off. I reached the 6 mile point and spotted my dad. He waved, I waved, all was good. As I passed him I imagined his journey to get to the next point up the motorway at 10 miles, just next to a the Ship Inn. The course is very handy that there are so many easy spots for supporters to gather.IMG_1978In this pic I saw the photographer laughing and knew the guy behind had done something fun, so I turned to him and said I was looking forward to seeing it later. He laughed 😉

The next few miles were along a cycle path (tarmac) and were parallel to the motorway which was just hidden away behind the bushes. Not that scenic anymore. I was familiar with this part of the route as it was where one of the Wiggle runs had gone down so I knew what to expect.IMG_1939What I really liked about the marathon was that you were never on one type of running route for too long. So you could segment the run into “down the cycle path for a mile” to “back onto trail and through an industrial site”. It kept things interesting – it wasn’t just a never-ending road that was always the same (oh hey Dubai Marathon…). 7-13 milesThere was another bit you run across the pebbles, but for the life of me I can’t remember when… but I’m pretty sure it was before the 10 mile mark. It was quite the grind (though not nearly as bad as it was on the way back!).IMG_1961I seemed to reach 10 miles in no time and spotted my dad again. There were quite a few supporters here all along the pathway which makes it quite narrow but also makes you feel a little like a famous athlete because there’s so much cheering. I had a quick stop to hand my dad my gloves (while also telling him to keep them with him as I might need them back again later). I told him I was feeling good and then headed off.IMG_1976After about another 0.5 mile you come to another good supporter point and lots of people were handing out Jelly Babies and water. IMG_1974I also spotted a guy I work with and it was nice to have him cheer me along. The next part of the marathon is probably my least favourite as you’re simply running to then turn around and come back. My dad would be waiting at the Ship Inn point again but I wouldn’t be back there until about 16 miles so I had a fair chunk to get through. To help me along I put on a podcast. I’d chosen the BBC 5 Live film review show which would have the Star Wars review in it. As I was seeing Star Wars later than day it seemed perfect.IMG_1942The route went down a trail path, so was a bit muddy and puddly, but otherwise easy underfoot. At about 11-12 miles the first marathoners started heading back. Some of them might have been ultra amazing ultra runners as well (as they started earlier) but I wasn’t sure. Eventually we made it to the turnaround point. IMG_1941I had now run all the course so there were no surprises (so I thought). Heading back meant I got to see a lot more runners – and people I knew. It kept me entertained to look out for people. I also took my first gel here (an SIS one with special ‘immune boosting’ vitamins. Can’t say it made me feel any different but the cranberry flavour tasted nice). As there was no bin around I tucked it back into my running belt. On this note, I saw a guy have a gel and then lob it into a bush. This made me REALLY angry. No one is going to be able to find that! Well done for littering the place up, you idiot. If you’re going to use gels make sure you depose of your rubbish responsibly. Rant over.IMG_1983As I got to 14 miles someone ran up next to me and said hello. It was a guy called Graham who I know from Twitter and parkrun. 14-20 milesI was surprised to see him as he’s usually very speedy. I told him he didn’t have to go my pace and good speed ahead if he fancied but he seemed content at the current pace. I turned off my podcast and we settled in to some nice running chatter. This really helped the miles fly by.IMG_1977In the distance I could see my dad. My hands were starting to feel the chill again as it was becoming a little more overcast. I attempted to signal to him that I’d need my gloves back. Luckily he understood and handed them to me as I passed him, while he cheered us along.IMG_1964I remember certain parts of the route and used them as milestones to get to. We were running at a comfortable 8.30 and I was feeling positive. We quickly got to the 20 mile point where my dad was spectating from again (it had been the 6 mile point). How the miles were flying by! My dad drove past (honestly, I couldn’t escape the man. He was everywhere ;-)) and honked – off  he went to the finish.IMG_1966Graham mentioned he ticked over to a marathon and this was when I realised he wasn’t running the marathon but actually the ultra! I just hadn’t been listening to him properly! Now a few of the things he’d said made a lot more sense now. Idiot that I am! No wonder he wasn’t speeding ahead at his usual super speed, he’d run five miles more than me!IMG_1943I suddenly found myself with a second wind and I gradually started to increase my speed. I gently pulled away and headed off on my own. I felt bad for leaving Graham but I wanted to push the pace. When I got a polite enough distance away I took my phone out (snapped a photo) and put some music on. In the process I managed to accidentally call my dad. I eventually cancelled the call and sorted my music out only to have him ring me back. We had a very quick conversation where I explain I hadn’t meant to call him and he said he’d see me at the finish.

Now I was grooving. The music was perfect and I felt strong. This is literally the best part of a marathon for me. When I’m IN THE ZONE and hammering it (relatively speaking of course) to the finish. In the back of my mind I questioned the increase in pace (what happened to a 4 hour marathon, Anna?) but I just went with it. I felt gooooooood. I was smiling, waving to marshals and just generally feeling the buzz. I heard a number of different people say a similar comment of, “she’s still smiling!”. This feeling in a marathon is what I live for, I love it!

I had mentally prepared myself for another jaunt across the beach but I was surprised to find us heading in a different route than we’d come. In fact, we were winding our way down residential streets. I wasn’t sure where we were but we had less than a parkrun to go now (well, so I believed). I eventually got back onto a familiar path and passed the toilet I’d stopped in at the beginning – so long ago now. The final stretch down the Southsea promenade – potentially very windy and unforgiving but luckily nice and still. With less than two miles to go I felt a few drops of rain… and then it started drizzling. Well, we had been very lucky to not have had any earlier and I was quite warm that I didn’t mind. My watch ticked over 26 miles… then 26.2 miles and we weren’t near the finish. As I passed a photographer he said “just half a mile to go”. Riiiiight. I knew we were about that away because I was familiar with this route (parkrun and GSR) so just knuckled down to that extra distance to get it done.

There were a lot of supports at the end which was fantastic. My only quibble (and this is really pathetic and moany so I’m sorry) is that as I was about 50 metres from the finish a man who was just ahead had his entire Von Trap Family of children join him to run with him to the end. This is all very lovely and ahh how cute, but I almost collided with four different children as they randomly went from supporter to runner. I then couldn’t get passed them – they were all running so slowly – and it kind of buzz killed my finish. I GET IT. You’re all so proud and want to share the moment, but there are other runners running the race as well… Meh. Rant over. Anyway, I finished, hurrah!21-27 milesMy time was 3:45:36. second in my age category, 13th female (out of 280) 🙂  I was now fairly soggy. I collected my medal and goodie bag. I spotted my dad and he passed my coat quickly. IMG_1970What a hero! I saw some other freebies being handed out so headed over to have a look. A marshal was handing out free beers so I went to take one. He looked at me and said, “well I shouldn’t really, but I hope you’ll give this to your dad as you’re underage”. I stared at him, asked him if he was joking and when he said no I said, “I could actually hug you. I’m 29!” He laughed. Well, if that’s not the best thing to hear when you’ve finished a marathon I don’t know what is!IMG_1975We then had a bit of a length walk back to the car in the rain… My dad wasn’t able to find a space any closer. But the walk did me good – it helped stretch my legs a bit. And luckily we made it in the car before the rain really began.IMG_1944We drove home, I showered and got myself together and then we headed straight out again for some much needed Nando’s, followed by a ridiculous amount of sweets at the cinema watching the new Star Wars film.IMG_1973It was such a fantastic way to celebrate and relax afterwards. Though my legs didn’t thank me for the 2.5 hours of sitting and doing nothing… When the film finished I got up and my legs were SO stiff and awful. But otherwise, all good! I really enjoyed the film as well. I’m loving these new Star Wars 🙂

I really enjoyed this race and have already signed up to next’s years. It really was a fun and festive event – not necessarily one for a PB but more for enjoyment, which is exactly my kind of race!

What do you like doing after a long race?

Do you like running with other people in races?

Do you enjoy out and back races/runs?