Learning lessons again

Another week gone by and another week closer to the Chicago Marathon.

I had a solid week of running, totalling up to 32 miles by Sunday. I am beyond chuffed!

The run I did on Tuesday was a real confidence booster of a run. I ran with Kyle and unfortunately Kyle wasn’t feeling that well but I was feeling like a spring ready to be released.

After to’ing and fro’ing and feeling guilty, I decided to run ahead of Kyle so I could embrace this new found energy and get in a solid tempo workout. Minus girlfriend points I know, but he did reassure me it was OK for me to go ahead. Every run is important right now and if I can make some minor gains where I can, I need to take that opportunity.

I found myself getting faster and faster as the run continued and in the end sprinted to a 7 minute mile finish feeling strong and in control. My hamstring was only slightly uncomfortable and generally fine afterwards. Whew! Though of course I won’t be doing this every run, it was nice to be able to turn my legs over a bit faster just to see how things felt and to push myself a bit more. Five solid tempo miles complete!

Thursday was the Wiggle Run for the month and we headed out for a seven mile relatively easy paced run.

It was nice to chat to people, run a different route and basically get out of the office. Actually the route ran some of the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon so brought back good memories for me.

My hamstring did feel a bit more uncomfortable towards the end and concerned me a little, but afterwards felt fine and the next day was absolutely fine again. Clearly Tuesdays session was not entirely risk-free, but thankfully nothing to set me back.

On Saturday Kyle and I headed down to the exceptionally windy Lee-On-Solent parkrun to meet up with our friends Ben and Caroline.

Jeeze it was so gusty! As Lee parkrun is literally straight along the front we really felt the brunt of that wind. Luckily the wind was coming off from the sea rather than directly against us but it was still tough with wind blowing directly into your ear for half the run.

The start was a little stressful too. The run director explained the course, did the thank yous and then straight away counted down to begin the run. No one was in position ready! And as there were over 400 runners it was quite chaotic.

It took us about half a mile to find a position where we weren’t jostling into people or trying to overtake slower runners. Kyle and I ran together and then at the end he sprinted off (payback time eh ;-)).

I managed 24:27 which I’m happy with and at the end I met a lovely blog reader too (who zipped past me super fast in the final sprint!). Turns out she was an old friend I used to know back in the day, so it was nice to see her again.

Then Kyle, Ben, Caroline and I headed to The Penguin Café for brunch.

This is your proper greasy spoon standard British café. We love it here. It’s definitely quantity over quality to some degree but it’s always so friendly, the service is fantastic and the whole café is full of penguin pictures and artwork. Love it!

We all had the Emperor Breakfast, which is basically the biggest breakfast on the menu: three bits of bacon, two sausages, two eggs, beans, mushrooms, hash browns, black pudding, tomatoes, toast and a cup of tea (for under a tenner!). It definitely fills a hole.

The rest of the day was about chilling and doing some chores. We briefly considered going out for another run that afternoon to make up our long run (so for me this would be about 13-14 miles, 9 for Kyle). We could see the forecast for the next day looked even windier and potentially downpouring. The idea of that sort of run really didn’t appeal so doing it on Saturday instead seemed tempting.

But in the end we decided to just do it the next day as we weren’t in the right mindset. Plus I don’t think I’d have felt like it was a proper long run. Like yes the miles would be there and ordinarily on any other marathon lead-up I wouldn’t have minded but with having so few quality long runs due to my injury, I really needed to make sure each one I did manage was of quality.

Unfortunately this meant that during the night I slept terribly due to the howling wind, lashing rain and foreboding run. I woke up at 8.30am and looked out the window at the trees being thrashed around and wished so much I’d have done the run the day before.

I got myself together and took Alfie for a walk so I could wake my body up and also see how bad the weather really was. It was warm outside, slightly wet with spitting rain but generally just super windy. And the wind was coming off the seafront, like the day before, so actually we would only be fully against it for a few miles throughout the run. Not too bad!

We both got ourselves together and headed out. Within the first few miles it became clear that the run wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d feared.

And we saw the pumpkins!

It was a little warm and of course super windy, but actually it was very pleasant. We kept the pace sensible and found ourselves feeling good and enjoying it.

When we got to eight miles, Kyle headed off back home to finish his 12 miles and I carried on. My plan was to follow the same 15 mile route I’d used the previous two weeks but at 10 miles, providing I was feeling good, I could add an extra mile. And right at the end I could add another loop for a further mile if I was still feeling good.

Very windy along the seafront

Happily when I got to mile 10 I was feeling somewhat strong and added the first extra loop. As I got to about 12 miles though I started to flag. The wind was now against me and I could feel my energy sapping.

I know I’m very lucky in my running that I rarely “hit the wall” but I definitely felt like I was. I got to a set of complicated traffic lights (about three different traffic light points to get across a big crossroad) and I stood there grateful for the moment’s rest. I wasn’t out of breath or hurting, I was just tired. I felt a wave of mental and physical exhaustion… Five miles was a long way to go!

But as I set off again I felt a new lease of life, a second wind, and popped some music on and embraced this new energy. I was back on it again!

It became a struggle again on the final mile, but at this point the end was in sight. I was on my way to stopping and sitting down. What a relief!

I finished strong, but exhausted and very thirsty. The humid temperature and the salty spray from the sea had made my mouth very dry. I guzzled down a pint of water as soon as I got in.

Kyle’s run had gone well too and we were both chuffed we’d gotten out and done it despite our initial reservations.

As I’m dog-sitting at the moment for my parents (three dogs plus my Alfie), I ended up having to do a lot of walking throughout the day as I can’t walk them all at once. And I also met my lovely friend, Kim, for a coffee which involved about three miles round walk in total too.

In the end I walked over 45,000 steps and was SHATTERED. I didn’t feel hungry (even by 5pm and having just had porridge to eat all day), I had a terrible headache and just felt so drained.

I should have rested more but I felt guilty about not walking the dogs. My parents usually take them for a big walk down the beach but I just can’t do that on my own. So I kept taking them out for little walks to keep them entertained and happy.

Though my hamstring felt absolutely fine I just felt terrible. 17 miles is a big step-up in the great scheme of my lack of training and the wind definitely didn’t help. Though my mind is like “Pft! 17 miles, I’ve done that loads of times”, I need to remember that actually it’s been a while. I need to be sensible. Lesson very much learnt!

But I’m chuffed I had a solid long run!

How do you recover after a long run?

Do you dread runs sometimes?

Good runs and bad runs

So Friday was another one of my work’s “Run and Ride Outs” at Wiggle. I love these days because it just means everyone in the office is buzzing about what activity they’re going to do.

There are usually a couple of cycles planned (a long one and a short one) and a few runs (beginner, short run and longer run). There’s also a scavenger hunt and a swim. So it’s very inclusive. Of course you don’t have to do it, but realistically most people get involved because the alternative is carrying on working… Originally I was going to do the longer run, which was 9k. But I wanted an easier run and I knew some of the people in the 9k group were quite speedy. I didn’t want my ego to take over and for me to try and keep up at the front.

The shorter run was 5k and the group was a good mix of abilities and loads of people I get on with well. A fun group of people up for a laugh, which is exactly what I wanted from the run. Nothing serious, nice and chilled. Happily we also had Garmin and High 5 in to show off some of their new products and for us to try out. I didn’t get involved with the Garmin products because I’m more than happy with my Fenix 3 and don’t want to be tempted by anything else. I actually don’t think I could be tempted though because I really love my Fenix. I did get a cheeky photo with the Garmin car though…I did pick up some cool High 5 freebies though. I love their electrolyte tablets and gels so I made sure to grab some of those to keep stocked up. They’ve rebranded so the designs are all different which is cool. They had a tent set up with all their products set up and water dispenser thing with cups so we could try the electrolyte flavours. Also very handy for after the run and ride!

Photo stolen from friend, Kyle

So the run got started and it was very relaxed and chilled, heading towards the nearby Hillsea Lines which is a pretty trail next to a river and off the road. It was lovely. We stopped a few times to wait for people – the leading girl, Chloe, and I would run back to collect people as well, which was nice because you’d hate people to feel forgotten or left behind.Kyle did a good job of taking lots of photos. A fellow fan of the on run selfie. He’s gotten quite good at it. So basically all the photos are from Kyle.

It’s so nice on these runs as you get to chat to people you wouldn’t ordinarily get to chat to on a daily basis. And let’s be honest, anything that includes running is always going to be a winner for me. It was very warm though! As we got into our stride a few of us stretched out ahead a bit which was nice and meant I got more of a negative split on my run. I got a bit further than 5k as I would run back for the last guys as well, so I was happy!Actually towards the end it was Kyle, Gavin and me seeming to run off quite fast. I think it was a case that none of us wanted to be the slow one and that just caused us to get faster and faster. It was a nice leg stretcher at the end but it did poop me out considering I was just after an easy run! I ran back to run with the others and Kyle caught some cool end photos.Ah such good fun with a nice group of people 🙂It was a great Friday because I was also off to Nando’s and the cinema with my friend Mike that evening as well. So I got to leave work early and meet up with him without rushing. I did have a quick shower at work though! Mike is a running friend so he’s seen me sweaty and a mess before but still 😉We had a nice catch up and chicken (obviously) and then headed to watch Han Solo. Asides from Mike accidentally (though hilariously) throwing popcorn all over me, it was a brilliant movie. Quite funny and good characters. I like a film where a female character’s strengths aren’t her boobs. I think that’s why I love the new Star Wars films so much (and the old ones I guess), strong female characters. We need more of them!The next morning I headed to Lee-On-Solent parkrun. I did my usual 1.5 mile warm-up jog and decided the legs weren’t up for a speedy run. I felt sluggish and tired. I got to parkrun just in time for a quick chat with the lovely Rebecca. She was having a rather stressful morning as run director with lots of different things going wrong. But from the outside, it all seemed like a normal and well-run parkrun! I had originally geared myself up to try going for it again as Lee is such a flat course, but in reality it wasn’t meant to be. Obviously though my brain forgot this realisation as we set off… I started running, getting carried away. It felt tough though. I hit the first mile in 6.36 and as we turned around and felt the wind against me (not massively, but enough) I knew I was on a downward decline to a rather miserable parkrun.

Photo Credit: Peter Stoddard (for the next two too)

I mean, I should have just given up and gone straight to a nice 8 mini/mile and enjoyed the other two miles but I didn’t do that. I just attempted to hold on to any semblance of speed that I could while the whole time just not enjoying it and feeling like it was the hardest thing in the world.As I clawed back to the finish, all the time wondering how I managed to get 19:40 the last time I was there. Mental.I finished with a time of 21:15 which really felt like such hard work. I sat on the wall after finishing and chatted to some other parkrunners. I mean, it does make sense that my body is feeling tired. Getting used to speedwork, running five times a week rather than my previously usual four. It all adds up. I’m happy where I’m at though. Uninjured and running consistently. I can’t argue with that! I don’t want to focus on times and try and beat my parkrun time every parkrun as that would suck the fun out for me. I think I lost sight of that a bit on Saturday. It’s easy to get a bit carried away with getting fast times and wanting to see them more. But that won’t happen every week. That would probably get me injured! It’s just such a contrast to how good my Wiggle run felt compared to this run. Like the Wiggle run was so chilled and relaxed, whereas this parkrun wasn’t. I should have just chilled and Lee and enjoyed the run at a gentler pace. The brain is funny thing though, eh!

I ran back to my car and was happy with almost 7 miles for the day. And a cheeky bit of cake later on. I mean, who doesn’t love a hot sticky sunny day than a fat slice of chocolate cake, eh? 😉Yummy Crunchie chocolate cake from the ever lovely Penguin Cafe. Delicious.

Do you ever do any non-work activities with colleagues?

Do you use any High 5 products?

What did you get up to over the weekend?

Now a member of the sub-20 5k club!

Leading up to the Brighton Marathon and the weeks after I’ve had a lot of solid, good running. I’ve felt strong, injury-free and I’m gaining some good speed. So on Saturday I decided to test out what I could do at parkrun.

I went to bed knowing I was going to go for it. I got a good night’s sleep and woke up at 7.50am… a lie in! I’d had a horrible dream about failing miserably at parkrun, not being able to run and just feeling like I was stuck in porridge. So I woke up feeling a bit apprehensive. I walked Alfie and then had an SIS Go Caffeine Shot (150mg of caffeine). I didn’t want a coffee because I didn’t want a lot of liquid inside me. I then drove five minutes down the road to park my car by the beach where I then ran 1.5 miles to the Lee-On-Solent parkrun start. The weather was perfect. Cool and still.

During my warm-up my legs felt good. I had a quick wee and then did some dynamic stretches in the 10 minutes I had to spare. To be honest, I was just nervous and needed something to do. My lovely friend Rebecca spotted me and we chatted for a bit. I hadn’t told I was coming as it was a bit last minute. I also spotted the lovely Kerry, who I know through social media. So it was nice to have a natter beforehand to some friendly faces.

Then we lined up. I got close to the front, knowing how busy Lee can be at the start. I felt very close to the front speedy guys but I knew I needed to give myself as good a chance as I could. If I failed at my time I wanted it to be down to me and not something external. I had my Bluetooth Jaybird headphones in and I was ready. As soon as we started my legs just went for it. I was scarily close to the front (I say front, I mean that there weren’t masses of people in front of me, but rather 15-20 people).

I looked at my watch and saw 5:45min/miles which made me panic. Jeeeeeeeze that’s fast for me. I knew though I just had to give everything straight from the go. Running a 5k is nothing like running a marathon. You only have three miles to play with so you can’t waste one of them warming up or building yourself into a sprint. It has to be bat out of hell fast and then hanging on for dear life for the rest of it before you crash.

Inevitably, obviously, my pace slowed to a more manageable pace – but still ridiculously fast for what I’d run previously (6:17!). I felt comfortable though, my breathing easy, my legs smooth. I smiled at the marshals and thanked them as I raced past. We came to the first hairpin turn to head back the way we’d come and I felt the wind slightly against me. That meant a tiny bit more effort was required. I knew I just needed to just get to the next turnaround and it would feel a bit easier (in theory). But that was ages away.

I still had to go over the slight mini slope up the promenade (but then the lovely down section after that) and then the God-awful shingles you have to run across for about 100m. It really takes it out of your legs running over pebbles, trying to find your footing and getting no real grip on the ground. But then I wasn’t far from the turnaround bit. Two females were ahead of me; the first way ahead and the second was ahead but not within a distance I could reel in unless she faded dramatically. But it helped me focus on something to keep her in my sights.

We turned and then the wind was off us (I say wind, it really wasn’t windy but it was that slight bit of extra energy I needed to maintain my pace). On the second mile my pace had dropped to 6:27. I knew I was OK though because I needed 6:26 per mile for a sub-20 and I had some time in the bank from the first mile. I also knew at this point after the turnaround I was safe. I could maintain the pace and I was heading back to the finish. Just keep running forward. No turns, just the pebbles and the slope again. The pebbles hugely sucked. It killed my pace momentarily but I kept pushing.

At this point I was gasping and spluttering. No waves, no smiles, just head down, keep running. As I got over the slope I could see the finish ahead. Nice mini downhill and then just a stretch to the funnel. I was literally making all the noises now. I remember someone cheering me and me replying “I hope this is what a PB sounds like!” and he laughed.

And then I got to the finish. I looked at my watch and squealed. 19:39! I jumped about and cheered, telling the funnel marshals that I’d just got a PB and my first ever sub-20. One of the ladies said “and most definitely sub-20!”. I was so chuffed. I was also dead on my feet and so grateful I was no longer running. I sat down and stared at my watch. I did it! And my watch said “Fastest 5k record” and had 3.1 miles recorded. No short course! An actual 5k. I was beyond chuffed.

At the same time, it did feel a bit empty. I was there on my own. No one to celebrate with. It was what it was though. I ran back the 1.5 miles to my car. I saw Rebecca on the way back and cheered her on and mentioned about my PB. She was very pleased for me which was nice 🙂 She had a good run too. I got back to my car and decided to just chill for a bit looking at the sea and cooling down. It was very peaceful watching the gentle waves on the shore. I do love being so close to the sea.I spent some time trying to take a photo of my watch with the PB on it but because my main camera has broken (don’t even ask…) I was trying to use the selfie camera to do it. By the way this is a NIGHTMARE to take a normal photo with. As I was fumbling around an elderly couple walked past me. The man jokingly asked me if I’d won. I smiled and said, “yes I have…well, my own race anyway”. He asked me what I’d done and I explained about parkrun down the road and how I’d gotten a good time that morning. They both said congratulations. It was a nice moment.

A not so nice moment was almost losing my car keys due to an Anna’ism. So… I tend to leave my keys on the tire of my car (FYI, I won’t be anymore!) as I don’t want to run with them. Yes I know. Not safe. Stupidly risky, yadda yadda yadda. But remember, I’m Idiot Anna. So I went to grab the keys from the tire and I knocked them off. They fell behind the tire under the car. I bent to grab them and saw they were LITERALLY an inch away from a grate. Now had they fallen down the grate I’d have been actually screwed. Not only would they have fallen into the murky depths of a disgusting watery filled hole but as my car was on top of said grate my chances of retrieving them would have been slim to impossible. I do believe my PB glory was giving me a slight saving grace (this is lies, it was pure chance). I’ve never felt so lucky in my life. Lesson very much learnt. I mean, had my car ever gotten stolen I’d have probably learnt that lesson there as well. Hey ho.

Back to my run. Everything that morning had conspired to help me get my time. The weather, the course, how my legs had felt, a solid night’s sleep… it just worked out. My training has been good and people around me having confidence in me certainly helped. I feel like I’ve ticked off a significant goal that I’ve had going for ages. Since getting 20:06 (my previous PB) four years ago it’s been something out of reach for me. That said, I never put the effort in to get there again so I can really only blame myself.

The next day I had another glorious lie-in and then headed out for a 15 mile run. I didn’t feel to excited about it if I’m honest. I was dreading it a little. It’s a long way to go and I was going solo. Originally my friend Martin was going to run with me but he called in sick on Saturday… so it was me, myself and I. I lined up a podcast and set off on a familiar long run route. It annoyingly includes quite a big hill that goes on and on at mile 3 but otherwise it’s fairly flat and goes along the seafront.

It was sunny but not overly warm so I didn’t take water. I knew I had my dodgy tap at the half-way point so I wasn’t too worried. The miles seemed to crawl until I got to 6 miles and then I was into the run and enjoying it. Weird how it takes so long for me! Classic long distance runner I guess. I got to the tap, drank and splashed the water on myself before heading off. I decided to do my 13 miles route and then add on miles at the end. Mentally it felt easier heading back towards home then heading further out. The mental games we play, eh.It did mean the final two miles were a bit windy and looping but it was nice to be so close to home (and it did mean I could swing past the dodgy tap again), so mentally I knew if I fancied just stopping I could. But of course I didn’t. 15 miles done!So this week I managed to hit 40 miles. I don’t usually do such high mileage. I’ll normally be around 30. But since adding in another run I’ve managed to climb it up gradually over the weeks. I’m really happy with where I am right now. I’m not going to increase it any higher for now. Hopefully leaving around 35-40 miles will allow my body to adjust and adapt. I desperately want to avoid getting injured. So far everything feels good but I know from a wealth of experience this is not a good indicator of what’s lurking round the corner! I just need to be sensible. But long may my strong running continue. I won’t let it go to my head though. I know I’m not invincible. I’ll have another post soon on my current running and my goals going forward…

How was your weekend?

How do you celebrate a PB?

What mental games do you sometimes play to get through runs?

The day before the Brighton Marathon

Friday night was all about chilling and relaxing before the hectic weekend ahead.

The Friday before a marathon… always a weird one. You want a solid night’s sleep, good food and nothing crazy going on really. James came down to stay as he was also doing Brighton and we were driving down together on Saturday. Friday night was nice and chilled with a solid meal of chicken, veg and sweet potato (if I do say so myself…).

In the morning we headed to the super close Lee-On-Solent parkrun. I haven’t been to Lee parkrun in ages so it was nice to pop down there and see some lovely friendly faces. The weather was super foggy. You could barely see the sea. I spoke to the legend Rebecca (parkrun volunteer pro and now beginner runner making amazing strides). I wasn’t going to go mad at parkrun but I did want to stretch my legs a little and Lee is super flat so that helps to have a nice smooth run.Everyone lined up and we were off. I kept it steady, not going crazy but not going entirely super easy either. I felt happy though. Everything felt good. Hallelujah!My friend Ben was there cheering everyone on and took some snaps as I came back along to head out to the second out and back. You can see how bad the fog was in the photo! I sped up on the final mile – seeing James whizz past the other way (fourth male!). Out and backs are nice in that respect, that you can wave and cheer the others on coming the other way.I finished with 22:30, which felt like a good place to sit the day before a marathon. I know some people like to fully rest but I’ve generally always run the day before. I just like to keep the legs turning over. James got 18:44 which he was chuffed with too.

Then we headed quickly back to mine to shower and eat breakfast. We wanted to head to Brighton as soon as possible so we could beat any queues to collect our marathon bibs and then see my friends afterwards. My close friend Charlotte has recently just had a baby and I hadn’t met him yet and my other friend Kate was coming down from Bristol. Charlotte’s hubby, Paddy, was also running the marathon the next day (his first!) so it would be nice to see them and catch up with a cup of tea.

We made good progress to Brighton (James endured my driving and survived the trip). Brighton was similarly foggy. The temperature was cool but you could feel the sun trying to burn through. We found a decent parking spot not too far from the Marine Parade, where the expo was and walked down.Bib collection was super easy and there was literally no queue. Happy days! We had a mosey about – there were lots of food trucks and running pop-up shops all alone the promenade. I mean, it was slightly depressing to see all the amazing looking food but know you couldn’t have any of it because you had to be sensible for the marathon the next day.No sunshine by the sea that day! After moseying about we headed to Charlotte’s and met her adorable six week old. It was lovely to see my friends and catch up and also chat to Paddy about his game plan and preparation for the next day.

I felt for Paddy as he’d had a tricky lead-up with a calf injury and then obviously having a baby not long ago. Not exactly ideal preparation. Sensibly he had reset his expectations and wasn’t going to aim for the sub 4 he had originally planned (though he is more than capable of hitting that time for another marathon).

We headed out for lunch to a lovely little deli just up the road where we sat outside (in the sun it was lovely and warm). Most of us had the halloumi and Mediterranean vegetable wrap, which was delicious.And then because the cakes looked so good James and I got a slice of triple raspberry and vanilla cake each (we did contemplate sharing for all over 0.5 seconds but realised that would be foolish). It was delicious!We then headed back where we enjoyed the brownies James had made and brought with him (legend) and a cup of tea (carb loading at it’s best…). We also sorted out what time we’d meet Paddy in the next day and the logistics of race morning.

James and I were staying in an AirBnb about three miles away so we’d park near Charlotte’s (before the road closures), make our breakfast there just so we could eat a bit later rather than before we left where we were staying and then get a pre-booked taxi to the start area in Preston Park (again, about three miles away – just that bit too far to walk). Easy breezy!

For dinner James and I bought a simple pizza from Tesco (Hawaiian – gotta love pineapple on a pizza) and got to our AirBnb. The Airbnb was quite…odd. We arrived at the time we agreed with the host and after waiting a bit at the door for her to answer, she finally appeared in just a towel having just showered. She seemed a bit shocked we were there “early” (we weren’t, if anything we were later). And then she showed us to our room, which was actually her bedroom as she’d rented our the room advertised to someone full-time.

That was fine – the house was lovely and she was friendly, but the doors were all glass. Even the bathroom was just frosted glass. This made me feel a *little* uncomfortable because the rooms were on the ground floor and so we had limited privacy. She was going to stay with her sister for the night but her lodger would still be there (though staying upstairs).

Well, it was clean, comfortable and we had a relaxed evening watching easy TV. We also managed to hang up some sheets on the door to make things a bit more private. So we had a good night’s sleep despite it being a bit weird. And let’s be honest, it was like £60 or something in a good location so can hardly complain!

Have you stayed in an AirBnb before?

Do you run the day before a big race?

Do you avoid eating certain things the day before a race?

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?