Upton House parkrun and so much food

This weekend I managed to tick yet another parkrun letter off my parkrun Alphabet Challenge. I went to Upton House parkrun to get my U. It’s down in Poole, which is just over hour away from me. I few of us from my club decided to make a pilgrimage down there for some parkrun tourism and a spot of brunch.

On Saturday morning I got up at 6.20am to walk Alfie (a good test of seeing what the weather is like and how my leg felt). It was beautiful outside. Cold, but clear and still. Perfect running conditions. It was getting light as well which just makes me so happy. Spring is definitely on its way! Then I got myself together and drove to my friend’s Mike house so he could then drive the rest of the way.More chance of us actually arriving at the correct place that way, let’s be honest.
We did actually arrive a little too early at 8.15am. The others who we were meeting had arrived too so we sat, car side by side, in the car park (which is huge FYI and only a £1) keeping warm.Upton House parkrun is located in the Upton Country Park, a National Trust spot.It was such a lovely location and the sun was shining which made things very pleasant. There were toilets there as well so that was handy for a pre-parkrun wee.After the briefing, we headed to the start which was really narrow. Mike, Jim and I decided to move a bit closer to the front as it was so packed (not with the numbers of runners really, as there were only just under 300 people) but because the path was fairly narrow.We still had to wend our way around people when we started but after a few hundred metres it spaced out and we had enough room to pick up the pace a bit. Happily my leg felt fine and I just felt so happy to be running again.The course is one big loop, one smaller loop and then the first big loop again. I love this style of parkrun because it means you don’t get bored and having the break between the same two loops means it’s not as repetitive. It’s run on trails – a compacted stony trail which is great to run on.The route is very pretty and scenic. It starts within a woodland area then stretches out onto some grassland area where you run past some cows (within an enclosure) and then past a beautiful lake.It was lovely, really lovely. It’s mostly flat but there were a couple of undulations but really nothing crazy. In fact the start is very much downhill so you can gain some good speed.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Somers

Mike, Jim and I kept together as we ran and kept up the odd bit of conversation but I could feel that I’ve lost a lot of fitness. But to be honest, I don’t care because running without issue is my main goal right now. I could feel my hamstring crop up a little but I didn’t mind that as I’d rather it be my hamstring than calf as I know how to help my hamstring, whereas my calf has been a bit of a puzzle.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Somers

I slightly pulled ahead of the two fellas and stretched my legs a bit, everything still feeling reasonable. But as we hit the final hill to then head to the finish Jim stormed past me. Apparently he’d realised I wasn’t as strong on the hills and decided to use it to his advantage at the end. Crafty but fair play! I couldn’t have caught him if I’d have wanted to.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Somers

In the end I finished with 23:13 feeling very happy. All my bits and pieces felt fine and I’d gotten my U! The others all said the same thing: Upton House parkrun is a beautiful and friendly course. I really wish it was closer as honestly I’d do this one all the time if I could. I loved it. OK perhaps the good weather helped but it just seemed like such a great set-up with how the loops worked. I signed the guest book (another nice touch at a parkrun) and chatted to some of the local runners. I mentioned about the parkrun Alphabet Challenge and they were quite bemused. Clearly not a very well known thing perhaps!Then we headed to the tearoom literally a stone throw’s away and had a nice cup of coffee and a natter.Sadly the tea room didn’t do anything more elaborate than toast or cake for breakfast so Mike and me decided to hunt out something more substantial on the way back home. Brunch was definitely in order!

 

We found a Haskins Garden Centre not too far down the road with a fantastic restaurant serving a good selection of hot and cold breakfast material. We went for the “8 piece” breakfast (you could pick the items you wanted).I loved that they had black pudding (a weakness of mine) but the scrambled egg was rather rubbery and tasteless. But otherwise it was a very yummy and sustaining breakfast.A very lovely morning indeed. I spent the rest of the day doing some deep cleaning in the house. I was just in one of those moods where I needed to busy myself and expel a load of energy. I do quite enjoy cleaning so it was nice to just put some music on and do some cleaning that doesn’t get done that often (like cupboards and hard to reach places…with dogs it’s hard to keep everything pristine!)

That evening my parents and I went to the Chilworth Arms for dinner to celebrate my dad’s birthday which had been on the Wednesday. I always feel sorry for my dad because sharing his birthday with Valentine’s Day always makes going out for a nice meal a bit tricky as everyone else seems to be doing that too and you usually get some generic set menus themed around it, which I always find a bit lame. And plus, because my parents are so disgustingly in love, my dad likes to treat my mum so really he doesn’t get the sole attention he deserves.
I hadn’t eaten since the earlier brunch (though it had been a large brunch of course) I was now really ready for food. Though my parents are still on the Slimming World wagon they decided to just enjoy a nice meal out without worrying too much about Syns and things like that. So we ordered a baked Camembert and a “grazing” sharing platter, which had lots of different meaty bits and pieces like chicken, lamb koftas, chorizo and pulled pork croquettes.

It was all so tasty. And happily the grazing platter had more than two of most things (food anxiety of sharing swerved…ha). I probably ate about 3/4 of the Camembert though. My stomach knows no bounds clearly as I was then very much ready for the main. Although I was initially tempted by the spit-roasted chicken I decided to step out of my standard food choice box and order something different. I went for the pan-friend venison and it was delicious. The gravy (jus? sauce?) was SO good.

A nice change! I should do this more often… Though saying that, I chose a different pudding than I’d have normally gone for too. Instead of being tempted by the brownie (always a safe tho delicious choice for me) I decided on having the apple and berry crumble (with ice cream not custard tho). It was fantastic!

My dad went for something a bit more extravagant with the chocolate orange bomb. Even though this sounded delicious, I really can’t stand chocolate orange together. It came out and the waitress poured molten chocolate sauce over the chocolate sphere thing. It eventually collapsed and melted. It was rather impressive. It left a few big chocolate chunks in a bowl of what looked like chocolate soup. My dad loved it for all of about three spoonful until it started to get sickly and too much. I was so impressed with him. In another life it seems this was the man who was able to eat entire packets of chocolate biscuits. He said he didn’t want to carry on eating it in fear that it would put him off chocolate forever ha.

The next morning I was supposed to run a few miles with Mike. We had both said we’d confirm for definite before 9am if we both fancied it as he had a slightly niggling hamstring and I wasn’t sure how everything for me would feel post-parkrun. Sadly Mike bailed as his hamstring wasn’t good. I’d slept badly that night – you know when you wake up mid-sleep and stare at the ceiling for an hour? Yeah that’s fun. So I was quite glad to roll back over and have a more lazy morning, rather than being on a timescale to get somewhere to meet someone.

In the end I headed out around 9.30am. I didn’t know how far I’d go as I didn’t want to stress my leg out. In the end I decided around 4 miles was good. My hamstring didn’t feel amazing, but it didn’t get worse. My calf felt fine. I’m happy with that outcome because I know how to help my hamstring whereas for my calf I’m literally in the dark. The hamstring is something I’ve had to deal with for a while and know what stretches and exercises to do and trigger points to work on. I just need to not aggravate it too much to mean I need to take a lot of time off to let it calm down, if that makes sense. Trying to keep it manageable for the moment.I went to the gym afterwards to do a bit of what I call “topping up” cardio as I want to maintain a level of fitness for any long runs. It also helps my sanity a bit – it’s standard ‘Anna Behaviour’ to over-worry about things like upcoming marathons, so doing this sort of thing calms those inner demons. Especially when I compare myself to other people doing the same marathon or marathons around the same time. Plus as I only let myself watch Peaky Blinders on the cross-trainer at the gym (to keep me from despising that machine and have positive connotations towards it) it was a fun 50 minutes.

So other than some more cleaning/sorting and usual jobs I needed to do, my Sunday was pretty chilled and relaxing.

Do you have any standard food orders you make at a restaurant?

Have you ever done a parkrun that you wish was closer to where you live?

Do you watch anything when you use a cardio machine at the gym?

Running Update

This week I’ve been super sensible. My calf was causing me a little bit of annoyance last week so I’ve taken just over a week off.

It’s frustrating to me because it felt absolutely fine during the marathon, during and after. And then when I started running again when I got home it felt fine. Even my eight miler was great. My hamstring was *slightly* niggly, but my calf felt normal. But the week after my two shorter runs didn’t feel good. My hamstring was also annoying me and so was my calf (both same leg). I decided the safest thing was just to stop running to let it rest.

I have Marathon Talk Run Camp approaching which I’m super excited about and want to get involved in (which is next weekend). I also have the Reading Half Marathon mid-March which I’d like to be fit for. I say “fit” as a relative term here. I won’t be PB-chasing as I’m not in any sort of shape for that. But I really like the race and want to be able to give it a little bit of welly.

So taking the time now rather than later is the wisest decision. The hamstring thing is interesting to me. I’ve had this issue since just before the Boston Marathon. In general it’s fine. It crops up occasionally in long runs at the end and is especially noticeable when I sit down for long periods of time (it’s basically just below my bum at the top of the hamstring, and niggled there and my foot recently). But mostly it’s not there when I run or in daily life. I found that avoiding direct hamstring exercises like deadlifts really helped. It’s a shame as I really enjoyed doing deadlifts, especially heavy deadlifts. But I’d rather run without issue so it was a sacrifice I gladly made.

Anyway, being the idiot that I am, since Christmas I’ve been adding in more hamstring exercises. Nothing heavy but some lighter, higher rep hamstring focused work. And this niggled it each time I did it. And yet I carried on (because I’m essentially an idiot). It aggravated my sciatic nerve.

Anyway, I wonder if the calf issue was made worse because of my hamstring being all angry – whether it’s annoying the calf directly or my calf overcompensating because my hamstring is feeling rough. I saw my physio (fully recommend if you’re in the Portsmouth/South Coast area) last night and he agreed that it’s probably all connected (as everything in the body generally is…). He commented that my hamstring injury area felt like “spaghetti” with the scar tissue. Bleurgh.

He worked on my back, “stretching” my spin (which was bizarre let me tell you), manipulated a few things, massaged and did acupuncture so I’m hoping that will help. Her didn’t seem too concerned though. I’m planning on doing Upton House parkrun tomorrow (yessss my “U”!) with friends so fingers crossed eh.

So needless to say I’ll be avoiding those pesky hamstring exercises that cause me issue. I won’t be bossing out any fast running either…but I hope to be getting back into more consistent running. But I won’t hold my breath 😉 I’m just going to jinx it all by being to hopeful.

Any advice on hamstring/calf/sciatic issues always welcome 🙂

Have you ever had any sciatic or back issues before?

Are there any exercises you avoid?

What are your weekend plans?

Dubai Marathon Goals

Having missed the Stubbington 10k on Sunday because I was being sensible, I decided to try running at lunchtime on Monday instead.

When I woke up Monday morning and headed to the gym (for strength-based training – not to run) the weather just looked awful. It was tipping it down. Even Alfie was not amused on his early morning walk! But I was resolute that I would run, come what may (dependent only on my calf feeling good of course).Thankfully come lunchtime my calf was feeling perfectly fine and the rain had stopped. I quickly got myself together and headed out. My plan was run the 10k distance I’d missed the day before. Not race it of course but just cover the distance. I was prepared to cut it short if necessary and had a good route for this with several points to turn back around.The run felt great. Well, my calf and other body parts felt great. My fitness…ehhhh. That said, I was running around 8 minute miles and my shiny new watch (well, “new” since Christmas) was telling me that according to my heart rate (around 140 bpm) I was running at an “easy pace”. I mean, it didn’t feel tough and I wasn’t out of breath – I could have chatted to my imaginary friend if I’d have fancied 😉 I guess I was just aware of how far a mile is… and how far a mile followed by 25.2 more would be. I’ve only run 10.6 miles since the Portsmouth Marathon so we’re talking three weeks of no long runs.

Without sounding arrogant or complacent though, I’ve run enough marathons now to know I can complete one (providing I don’t have a show-stopping injury or problem during the race). I’m not worried I won’t be able to finish and I’m certainly not questioning whether or not to do it. I’m going to Dubai for goodness sake – even if it takes me six hours, I’m doing the marathon!

It’s kind of like knowing that your car can get you to a far away destination. It might not be the smoothest drive, the weather might suck, the roads might be tough, the car might not be a race car but instead a little Fiat 500, but you know the engine can cope as long as it’s got the fuel. You can never guarantee, of course, that something won’t happen along the way outside of your control but in theory the car should be OK to complete the journey.

Knowing I can complete the distance isn’t my worry. It’s how tough it’ll feel and how bad my legs will feel after the marathon. The worse the training the worse the recovery. I’m not so stupid to assume that because I’ve run 12 marathons before will mean it’ll be a doddle. A marathon is NEVER easy. It’s a physical and mental battle however many you’ve run before. It’s not a walk in the park or indeed a parkrun. Those miles can tear you apart and laugh in your face. Hours of running. HOURS of mental and physical grit required.

Initially my goal was to be somewhere near my 3:24:06 PB but that realistically is not going to happen. I’d need to set out with that intention to hit that time and I’m not going to (I’m not sandbagging here I assure you). To be thoroughly boring and same old same old I’m going to hope to get around 3:45, anything under that would be marvelous. I’d absolutely love to get sub 3:30 but again realistically this is going to be a tough ask fitness-wise and I don’t really want to cause any further issues for my calf now that it’s on it’s way back to normal. The closer to 4 hours I get the bigger the issues I’ve had, I imagine, but we’ll see. Heat and humidity could play a factor here. It should be around 25 degrees during the day but the marathon starts 6am so it should be 10-15 degrees hopefully for a big portion. The course is entirely flat with few major turns (joy of joy, I can almost feel my mind melting in boredom). So it’s anyone’s guess really. I’ll decide how I feel closer to the time.

Happily the marathon is on the last day of the holiday so I can enjoy Dubai without issue beforehand. Oh sure I probably need to be a bit careful what I eat the day before and get a good night’s sleep but I can’t see this being an issue. I suppose ideally having the marathon at the beginning would be best but actually I’m happy with how it’s planned. After the marathon all I need to do is eat (which I’m pretty good at) and then later get on a plane to go home. It’ll probably be a super uncomfortable journey home but least I can just chill to some degree.

**Just going to add the necessary disclaimer right here: I’m fully aware I’m probably jinxing things here by saying all the above. Famous last words and all that…Fingers crossed it does turn out OK.***

Excitingly before I head to sunny Dubai, this weekend I’m heading to sunny Birmingham to meet up with some running buddies. Also, now brace yourself as this is super exciting, I’ll be getting another letter for my parkrun Alphabet Challenge! (Yes OK it’s not that exciting, but it is to me). I’ll be doing Kingsbury parkrun, whoop whoop! Following this I’ll be going to The National Running Show. I’m only staying for the Saturday but I’m quite excited. I’ve never been to one before. I’m imagining it to be a big running expo type thing. Exciting stuff.

Have you ever been to The National Running Show?

Are you confident with your running ability when it comes to races?

If you could be any car, what would you be? I’ll stick with my Fiat 500, cute and dinky 😉

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.

Calf and running update

Let me first begin this with patting myself on the back for getting too cocky about running and basically jinxing myself. I’m well aware of the irony of my posts leading up to the calf niggle, believe me!

As always with niggles and injuries I was running so well. Then the calf became uncomfortable and my running took a nose dive. It’s one of those things. I can’t get too upset because I kind of knew my bubble of good running needed to burst at some point. I am after all still an injury prone runner.ASICSSo, the chain of events as far as I can see was that I changed trainers to ASICS after really enjoying a solid period of good running in my Adidas Supernovas. Both calves became super tight but I continued to run in them despite this and then decided, as they got worse, to quickly re-purchase the faithful Adidas again. But it appeared the damage was already done. This was during my time in Wales with my family and my calves felt tight on each run – the left more so.IMG_1697Then I ran the Portsmouth Marathon… calves not 100% but nothing terrible. Though speeding up at the end probably didn’t help things, nor did running so soon (and up a giant hill) a few days later.

I believe this is what we call a “dick move”. I only have myself to blame. My glorious period of amazing running convinced me I was a new woman and my legs didn’t need the normal recovery. And then the left calf became uncomfortable and no longer just simply tight. It felt “wrong” and almost painful in the back body of the calf muscle.

After a very uncomfortable Christmas Day parkrun where the calf was still unhappy, I took just over a week off. I ran on Wednesday of last week…still a bit grumpy but far better. Then I ran a back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday (another dick move). It ached straight after the run on Sunday. A little panic ensued as I wondered, for the first time, if I could do Dubai (don’t get me wrong, I’d still go, I just wouldn’t run the marathon if I still felt the discomfort. I’ve run enough marathons now to care about DNS’s. I want to run long-term not just for a race. I’d enjoy my time in Dubai regardless).

I found a Physio nearby (South Physiotherapy Gosport – I can really recommend) and booked in for Wednesday. I planned on using the elliptical machine in place of running and my mind calmed and I felt quite chilled. Action plan in place. No point stressing. I know I can run a marathon as long as I’m not injured. I would just get rid of any time goals and hope to run an issue-free relaxed race.

By the time Wednesday rocked up my calf felt absolutely fine. I’d previously been feeling it when I walked Alfie or when I’d walk up stairs (pushing off from my toes caused it to feel very uncomfortable). To clarify things in my mind I decided instead of walking Alfie in the morning I’d run with him round the block (a mile). Firstly, Alfie thoroughly enjoyed himself! His very first whole mile of running – I’m so proud! And he only stopped once for a poo (necessary on his morning walk you see) and happily would have carried on after the mile. My calf? Absolutely fine. No discomfort. Now I felt silly.

I still went to the Physio appointment and explained the issue and the fact that it felt better now (who know show it would have felt after the single mile). The Physio examined it and got me doing lots of exercises. Then he massaged the area, cracked my back in different places, massaged my hamstring and did acupuncture all over my legs, glutes and back. He suspects I had a very mild calf sprain a few weeks ago (probably caused by the change in trainers tightening up my calves and then over-exerting my calf while it was still super tight).

He told me I could give attempt an easy run the next day (today). I’ve never had such a positive physio appointment. He was really thorough and super friendly. He also treats the RAF and Army – very cool.

So finger’s crossed for today’s run. The plan, if today’s run does indeed go well, is to run a gentle parkrun on Saturday and then run as normal the week after. No speedwork! In a perfect world I’d get a “long” run done the Sunday before I go to Dubai (21st – I go on the 22nd, the marathon is the 26th)… 10-13 miles maybe. Just to give me a bit of courage! But as long as I’m running discomfort-free I’m happy to crack on with the marathon.

Keep your fingers cross for me please!

Have trainers ever caused you an issue with running?

Do you calves ever get really tight? Mine are usually fine.

Have you ever had acupuncture?