My trip to Llandudno and a Christmas party

Life lately has been so good. I know I’m probably a broken record on this front but I’m very happy right now. Running is going well. I’m loving my job. I have a solid group of friends who continually make me smile every day. Life is indeed good.

I’ve just got back from Llandudno, seeing my grandparents, and instead of the usual “oh god it’s back to work” I was actually quite happy to go back. Not necessarily as happy about the super early morning, but you can’t win them all.IMG_1646Spending the four-ish days in Llandudno was lovely. Unfortunately my grandad wasn’t his usual energetic and fighting fit self due to an ongoing cough he couldn’t shift, but it was nice to be there anyway. Though he did go on an epic 5.4 mile walk with my dad around the Great Orme while I was out doing my long run on the Monday morning. I mean, as you do when you’re almost 84 right??My 15 mile long run was great. It was very icy and frosty but it was nice to get out in some different scenery. To make life easier I used a 5.6 mile loop that my grandparents had marked out for me (on proper maps, with elevation charts and everything!). This was handy because it meant if the roads were too dangerous I wasn’t going to be too far away from their house to stop.Llandudno runIt also felt a bit easier in my head mentally to think I was doing two-three loops rather than 15 miles. It was a great route because it went from one coast to the other, so you got to the see the sea twice which is always a win in my book.IMG_1697I didn’t have any choice but to wear my shorts as I hadn’t packed any leggings with me (I live in Anna La La Land where I don’t consider any negative prospects ahead, just everything running smoothly and the sun perpetually shining). But actually my legs were fine. It was my the tops of my ears and my fingers that suffered. I was wearing my Nike gloves and they’re still quite thin so my hands got really cold. I ended up pulling my sleeves down over them too. I made sure to  stop a couple of times to take some photos – it was so beautiful (with or without snow, really) that I had to.
Snowy LlandudnoThe first lap was good because I was new to the route and had to double-check my carefully written out paper instructions to ensure I was going to the right way, which helped pass the time. The second lap I just zoned out as I knew where to go. When it came to finishing the second lap I was at over 11 miles I didn’t fancy doing another lap as it would make my long run too far (almost 17 miles) and I really couldn’t be bothered. Instead I started the third lap but turned around when I hit the golf club, which we’d walked to the day before and I knew was 2 miles, so there and back would get me to my 15 miles. Perfect.
15 milesThe rest of the time in North Wales was good old fashioned family time. Lots of walking, quality quiz time (I love a quiz) and good food. My grandparents eat really healthily and light so the only indulgences were when we ate out for food (we had an Indian and a Christmas meal) or when I bought a chocolate drenched waffle at the Christmas market…IMG_1802Some thing have to be done. We also did a fun walk around Llandudno to find all the different Alice in Wonderland statues (called the “Alice Trail”). I love stuff like this.IMG_1799Then I was back at work on the Thursday, just in time for our Christmas do. It was at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which was rather fancy and meant I could put on a sparkly dress.IMG_1868The event only cost £5 and we got a drink on arrival, half a bottle of wine, two drinks tokens and a three course meal. I mean, that’s not too shabby at all! I got myself all glamorous (well, as glam as I can really) and enjoyed a fun evening of food and dancing. IMG_1871I did drink but not to excess as I had work the next day (and not to mention a marathon the following weekend). I’m actually not a huge drinker. I don’t mind getting a bit tiddly but I hate the feeling of wanting to be sick or the room spinning, which inevitably happens after drinking too much. The dinner was great (even more so because my friend and I got to split someone else’s meals between us as they hadn’t shown up). And the pudding was a pudding BAR. I will unashamedly say I returned after my first selection for more. I must have eaten about nine different selections (tiffin, rocky road, mince pie shortbread (!), blondies…). I mean, to be fair they were quite small.Historic Dockyard Christmas partyAnyway it was a really fun evening. It was nice to have a Christmas party with people who were around my own age. However, it did make for getting up on the Friday morning somewhat tricky. Luckily though everyone who’d been just as foolish as me not to take a day off or a half-day was in the same boat, so I wasn’t alone in my grogginess at work!

I’m working most of Christmas (except the Bank Holidays) but I don’t really mind as everyone is so jolly and festive. Plus I have a holiday to Dubai in January to look forward to. I’ll have my Portsmouth Coastal Marathon recap coming soon! Spoiler: I finished and I’m not injured 😀

Did you have a work Christmas party?

Do you run in the snow?

Do you cope well with being hungover?

Long run Sunday with the Victory 5 Mile

After my rather calorific Saturday in London, I felt fairly well-fuelled for my long run on Sunday. I didn’t fancy dinner and settled instead for some fruit (because #health) and a hot chocolate.

I was signed up to do the Victory 5 Mile race, which is run by the City of Portsmouth AC and it part of the Hampshire Road Race League. As such it’s quite a popular one for the local running clubs, Hedge End included. When I went to sign up I found it was sold out but luckily (for me) I managed to acquire a place from someone who could no longer run it (not lucky for him though of course). I’ve been finding going out for a long run on my own quite dull so having a race as part of a long run really helps.

In terms of convenience, the race actually takes place on the grounds of where I work so wasn’t too far away. In terms of excitement, this meant it was going to be a fairly dull race as I regularly run around that area. But the company of other runners would be nice and it was flat. I found that I could get 11 miles beforehand if I ran there, totaling up my long run to 16 miles for the day. Ideal. Happily as well the race didn’t start until 11am so this meant I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn.

In fact I had a rather leisurely wake-up time of 8.15am, walked Alfie and then headed out at 9am. The route was thankfully the same route I drive in order to get to work, so I couldn’t get lost. Hurrah! The weather wasn’t as cold as it has been so I was grateful for that too.My run was quite uneventful but it did feel somewhat sluggish. I guess this is to be expected due to poor nutrition the day before and a very fast parkrun. Mentally though it was OK because I knew I just needed to get to the race. Having a destination rather than just a loop made things tick by quite nicely. It was also a strange experience running to work. I had a couple of pain points on the route where I struggled to find the right way to go. Not because I was lost but because where you can drive and where you can run/walk can be different in certain areas. At one point I found myself stuck at a roundabout as I couldn’t get to the turning I needed to due to barriers… I headed off in one direction to find that it wasn’t going to bring me out where I thought and so had to turn around and head back to find another route. Eventually though I found my way through.11 milesI arrived at Lakeside, where the race was located, with enough time to pick up my bib (annoyingly my name was “Anne” not “Anna” for some reason…) and then chat to some fellow Hedgies and do a brief warm-up.I didn’t really need the warm-up but it was good to keep warm and chat to my friends.Then we lined up ready to go. I positioned myself further back than I would have had I been racing and then set off with the klaxon. Ooof my legs felt tired and heavy. Not a great start.
I took things nice and easy and listened to my podcast on my Aftershokz headphones to keep myself amused but it really was a slog. By mile two the thought of stopping was really strong in my mind. This is quite rare for me to want to stop, especially in a race where I’m not racing. It just felt like so much effort.
Victory 5 courseI was glad that the course was two loops because I’m not sure I could have managed three loops… just the thought of going round and round the lake was exhausting to me.

Photo Credit: Mike Gilmore

I found myself running a similar pace to a lady and we were in line as we ran. She told me to run ahead and catch my teammate up who we could see in front. But I politely told her I was OK. I wondered if she found it annoying me running alongside her? I didn’t want to increase my pace but I think she slightly decreased hers and I gradually stretched out in front (though I never caught my teammate).

Victory 5Photo Credit: Solent Sports Photography

I was really counting down the miles by the end and was grateful to see the end in sight. As I run this route so often I knew exactly how far we had to go. I managed to increase my pace somewhat and catch up with another Hedgie. Her partner was cheering her on with her adorable pug and the pug, Blue, was trying desperately to chase after her and barking away. It was very sweet.As we came round the final bend I saw my dad stood on a hill cheering away. As I ran there I needed to be picked up and it was nice that he’d arrived a bit early so he could see me finish. We’d agreed he wouldn’t come and support the entire race as he had a few jobs to do and it was going to be a slow plod for me, so not exactly a crucial one needing his support. That said though, I was grateful for his cheers at the end!
Victory 5 splitsI finish in 40:09, well away from my PB of course but a nice speedy few miles at the end of a long run. I quickly grabbed my medal, the water and we popped into the onsite Starbucks so I could grab a hot coffee before we headed home. I couldn’t hang around as I had a Christmas lunch to get to with my friends and had a very small window to get home and ready!As I headed home I didn’t feel “right”. I felt sluggish and just a bit off. My dad had been suffering from a bad cold and I wondered if I’d suddenly caught it too… That would be fairly typical. No injuries but taken down by an illness instead! I felt exhausted and just not great – and the run hadn’t felt my best either.

But anyway, I got home, showered and dressed and managed to get to the Christmas lunch for 1.30pm where I was in desperate need of a solid refuel. And thankfully I was at the right place 😉

We were at the King’s Head in Wickham which was lovely. I had the ham hock to start, followed by traditional turkey dinner (albeit with a limited portion of vegetables it must be said) and finished with cheesecake.I always find at Christmas meals that the puddings tend to be a bit lame. I’m not a fan of Christmas puddings at all and there’s usually a crème brûlée on the menu, of which I also don’t like. Occasionally you might get a rogue brownie but invariably it’s cheesecake which is alright but not my favourite. Ah well, it was tasty nonetheless.

Then we played some fun games, such as the celebrity on a post-it note stuck to your forehead game (I’m sure there’s a succinct name for it…) and Pictionary. I forgot how competitive I can get though. I get very into it and can be quite, well, let’s say over-enthusiastic about it.

The meal and company was just the ticket for making me feel better. Strangely enough after a solid night’s sleep that evening I felt absolutely fine the next day. I’m wondering if it was just the mileage having an effect on me and the fact that I ate pretty poorly the day before. Who knows! Touch wood, I feel fine right now.

One more long run before the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon… I’m off to Wales on Friday to visit my grandparents. The scenery will be far more exciting there and it’ll be lovely to relax and spend time with my family.

Have you ever run to a race before?

What’s your favourite part of a Christmas dinner?

What would be your pudding of choice, festive or otherwise?

On The Whistle – Festive Frolic race recap

The On The Whistle events are really lovely relaxed races. I mean, it actually feels weird calling them races because they really don’t feel like a race in the true sense of the word. Yes you put a bib on and are timed, but it’s not competitive… this is mainly because they’re lapped events with a 6 hour time limit. You can do as many laps as you like within that time and you only need to complete one lap to get a medal. So you don’t know who around you is doing how many laps; some people might be going for a half marathon, some a marathon and some an ultra – and everything in between.

I did one of these events in August just after I returned from the Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp. My knee was a bit battered and it niggled a lot during my first lap so I walked a second and called it a day. I was sad to have such a poor effort but it was the right thing to do on the day. This event, the Festive Frolic, was pretty much identical to the Why Not Run event I did in August – though it was A LOT colder. It was still laps of Staunton Country Park, in Havant, and each lap was just over 4.5 miles. As I’m marathon training it seemed like the perfect time to get in a solid long run, surrounded by other runners and have it catered (the single aid station where the laps begin and end is particularly well stocked with a variety of tasty food and drink).

I’ve been struggling to have any motivation to go on long runs solo so this was ideal to use for my longest marathon run. I was aiming for four laps, around 18 miles, or five laps, over 22.5 miles. What was nice was that I could make a judgement call at four laps and decide how I felt about doing another chunk of miles.

The event started at 9.30am (with the race briefing at 9.20am). Havant is about 30 minutes from where I live so it meant I could have a lie-in until 8am and leave at 8.30am. I vaguely knew where the country park was, having been there a few times, but I still put it into my Sat Nav because, hi I’m Anna and I’m a certified idiot.

When I got to my destination at 9am and realised I couldn’t actually see a country park anywhere I did somewhat panic. Obviously I don’t leave myself any sort of contingency time (ALWAYS ASSUME THE WORST, ANNA). Thankfully as I drove a little further I saw a sign for a car park and a suspiciously leafy area… After spying some other people who were clearly runners I parked up and paid the extortionate £2.50 (I’m joking, big shopping centres could learn a thing or two!).I arrived in good time (heaven knows how) and didn’t have to spend too long hanging about in the cold while everyone pointed at my pink bare legs in horror. I had been tempted by leggings but decided I wanted to wear compression socks (as I tend to do on long runs) so figured I’d be alright. I wore a thin base layer under my running club vest and a super warm sports bra (I quite like it when sports bra add that slight padding bit, not just because us less-gifted females get a bit of a vanity boost but also because it doesn’t half keep the ladies toasty).There were a few people from my running club but most of them were at the league road race, Hayling 10. A few were aiming to do a half-marathon and a few were aiming for the full marathon (which would actually be around 27 miles). I mentioned my goals and several stated that surely if I got to almost 23 miles I’d be far too tempted to bump it up to a marathon to stop. This thought had gone through my head, I must admit, but I didn’t want to set myself any unrealistic targets or put pressure on myself. We’ll see, I said.After a slight delay (we were waiting for the last few people in the portable loo line – the pressure of everyone waiting! How embarrassing!) we were off. Normally I would have had a wee before a race (even if it was just a Psychological Safety Wee) but the queue had been too long and I decided I could use the loo after finishing my first lap. I ran the first few miles with running club friends, Rich and Matt. Rich was aiming for a marathon and they were both testing out running using their heart rate (not going over 180-age). It was interesting hearing about it but it does sound a little faffy to me (and not just because I’m not a huge fan of wearing my heart rate monitor).

A sceenshot from a video (terrible quality sorry!) from the Facebook page

When they decided on a walking break (all part of the plan) I left them and headed off on my own. I had my headphones with me but decided on keeping the first lap “silent”. I tried not to look too much around me as well because I’d be seeing the route a number of times… I just kept my head down and focused on running a slower-than-normal pace. It was all rather pleasant but a little lonely now I was on my own. It’s not a huge race so there weren’t lots of people about, but I could see people ahead and as I was going a bit faster now I slowly overtook a number of runners over the course of the lap.

As I got to the third mile I really started needing a wee. I kept an eye out for a hidden bush but there were a number of dog walkers and considering I only had a mile to go before there would be the loo I decided to just not think about (ha! Easy right?). The course is completely off-road and on compacted dirt track. There were some areas of mud where the sun hadn’t dried up the moisture but otherwise it was easy underfoot. It was somewhat undulating at points, but not hilly.I reached the end of the first lap in about 45 minutes or so (I think it measured 4.6 miles) and ran quickly to the loo. Whew! I didn’t stop for any food as I didn’t need any but turned on BBC Radio 1 on my phone so I could have a bit of mindless music and chatting on my next lap. You can see from my splits where I stopped.I collected my wrist band (to mark a lap) and went on my way.

This lap went fairly quickly. I tried to keep my pace down but felt very comfortable running around 8.30s so just left it there. On the way out you pass runners behind you coming in to end their first lap so it was nice to encourage people on and wave (and also, when I was coming in to my first lap, seeing the speedy front runners heading out for their second lap). Now it was a bit less lonely because you passed a number of people throughout the lap. What was nice as well was that, as it was laps, you would continually pass the same people.I finished this lap and grabbed myself a couple of those chocolate Jazzie sweets. Well, they’re not Jazzies as they’re the bigger thicker ones (I actually Googled them and they appear to be called the “mother of all Jazzies”, which I’d concur). Very tasty. After a bit of stretching (my right hip was feeling a tiny bit tight) and a drink of water I headed off again. At this point I was aware I was third female. I knew there was a girl quite a bit ahead and another girl just slightly ahead. I wasn’t racing so didn’t intend to try and “beat them” but I wondered if I could eventually catch up. On this lap I put on a podcast to change things up. I was now heading towards the half marathon distance and feeling good. My only one slight worry was the tightness in my hip, but it wasn’t anything too concerning, just something that didn’t feel completely perfect.I caught up with the second female as I finished the third lap, hitting the half marathon distance badge that would be attached to my medal, and got some more Jazzies (mmmm so tasty) and more water. I did some more stretching, trying not to worry about my hip (I will hasten to add, it was not developing into a full-on injury, but just a tightness that I was becoming aware of). I didn’t mind stopping and collecting myself at the end of each lap as it kept it firmly in my mind that this was a training run and that all I was after was time on my feet. As long as my pace remained sensible I was happy.

I really like laps because mentally it helped break down the mileage for me. It wasn’t “ooh X more miles to go”, rather you thought about it in terms of number of laps, which is obviously a lot smaller a number. It was more manageable and you could just focus on the lap you were in. Though I did start to consider what my total mileage goal would be… I decided on five laps as I was still feeling good as I was nearing the end of my fourth lap. Like surprisingly good. I wasn’t breathing hard, I was very relaxed and I was finding it quite easy. I contemplated the idea of running to the full marathon… how cool would it be to randomly do a marathon? Unplanned! Just “hey I ran a marathon yesterday”. But as I finished the fourth lap I realised that despite how good I felt, my hip was rather tight and the jump in mileage would have a knock-on effect to my next week’s worth of running. I was only three weeks from the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon. I’m still Anna The Injury Prone Runner… I must never forget that or take things for granted. Over 4.5 miles over my planned distance wasn’t a walk in the park. It was still pounding on my legs, micro-tears on my muscles and ultimately would tire me out. Just because I’m in good shape does not mean I’m invincible.But as I knew it was going to be my final lap I decided to increase the pace a bit. I’d also overtaken the first female who had slowed down a bit. The demons in my head whispered I could be the first female for the marathon! But Sensible Anna shushed her away and carried on with the plan. I passed Rich and told him it was my last lap. I’d expecting him to say I should do another but he was lovely and cheered me on. He went on to do the full marathon distance (he’s a long distance pro), well done him! I tried to wave and smile to everyone I passed – it was nice getting those smiles back which boosted me along and it helped pass the time. I was back to listening to the radio again and was now feeling the buzz of the end of a race. Despite the pace increase, it still felt manageable, yes, harder but not awful. In the back of my mind I was somewhat concerned I was peaking too early in my training… A worry for another day!I finished strong, collecting my final wristband and rang the finishing bell before I could change my mind. I was done! No marathon for me. 23.3 miles (turns out each lap was just more than 4.5 miles…) in 3:21:57 and the first person for 5 laps (out of 9 of us – someone ran 8 laps!!) A solid and strong long run. I was very pleased. I did get a few people asking me why I didn’t do another lap, but honestly I was done. That speed increase on the final lap and shattered any doubt in my mind. Perhaps if I’d have gone slower it would have been more tempting. Who knows. I felt great though. Yes my hip was still tight and my brain was doing the full ANNA INJURY PANIC MODE but otherwise I was really pleased with the run. I chatted to a few ladies from my club who’d also stopped (one due to injury and two who’d done the half distance) before heading back to my car. Very weird for me to drive to and from a race on my own it must be said!For the rest of the day I did some foam rolling and walked Alfie – keeping my legs moving and the blood flowing. I didn’t feel that tired surprisingly. In fact, it really didn’t feel like I’d run 23.3 miles. This is a good sign (or a terrible one, who knows).I fully recommend the On The Whistle events. They’re very well run, great support and atmosphere, inexpensive (around £30) and a lovely goodie bag with a home-baked gingerbread man (matching the medal).  I’d definitely do another event.And, on the hip front because, let’s be honest, this is what was consuming my thoughts a little… The next day I went to the gym and did some more foam rolling, light cross-training (I find this helps flush out some nasties) and then did some hip abduction machine and honest to God it just DISAPPEARED. Like I left the gym with my hip feeling 99% better. I mean, WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL. The hip thing was quite deep in my bum/hip area and I found the hip abduction machine really worked that area so I’m wondering if getting lots of blood flowing there helped loosen it? Hey I’m no physio so I’m guessing here. But either way, it’s now completely gone! I ran on Tuesday and didn’t even feel an echo. Long may this last!

Have you ever done a lapped event?

Have you ever run a lot further than you intended to?

Has a niggly/tightness ever just disappeared for you?

The Gosport Half Marathon 2017

The Gosport Half Marathon… the elusive half marathon that I’ve entered no less than four times but have never run due to being injured. I entered it for the fifth time and hoped for the best.

Sunday arrived and I was, shock horror, fit and ready to go. And not only this but the weather was perfect. Still and dry. Cold, yes, but no wind. And as the half marathon goes up and down the coast of Lee-On-Solent, this was an absolute dream. Despite being sad I’ve never run this race before, there have been years when I’ve looked out the window at the roaring wind and rain and thought, “meh maybe I’m not missing out after all”.

My plan was not to aim for any sort of PB or fast run. I was instead going to add four miles beforehand to make it into 17 miles and run the race with a lovely friend of mine, Martin, who was aiming for a PB. His PB was around 1:44 so that would mean just under 8 minute miles which I felt like was a solid long run speed for me.

Despite the start of the race being up the road from me it was just that bit too far to run straight from home. Instead I was very grateful to get a lift from my lovely dad to drop me one mile from home so I could run exactly four miles to the race. The things fathers do for their daughters eh!

Happily the race didn’t start until 10am which meant I could wake up at the delightful time of 8.15am and leave the house just before 9am. This would give me a comfortable window to get to the race HQ (incidentally my old 6th form college, Bay House), pick up my bib and not have to stand around getting cold. Hurrah! I forwent breakfast as I wanted the extra sleep and do most of my long runs fasted anyway. Plus if you saw my last post and what I ate, you can probably see I was well fuelled.

So my dad dropped me off a mile up the road (bless his heart) and waved me off. He was going to support me but had time to go home and have breakfast before he needed to venture out (the race was, as I said, just up the road). I’d decided against wearing double layers, despite Alexa telling me it was 0 degrees C outside (good old Alexa). Instead I wore my running club vest, arm-warmers and gloves (funnily enough the last time I wore my arm warmers was also at another half marathon where Martin and I ran together. He said he hoped they were lucky as Southampton was where his original PB was from).

For my four miles, I aimed to keep the speed down. I listened to a podcast as I ran but found myself naturally getting faster (probably not helped by the fact that I was cold for two miles of the run and just wanted to get warmer!). I was also feeling anxious about getting to the race on time and worrying that I’d left it too late to pick my bib up. I hadn’t, but it’s always nerve wracking when you run to a race (or parkrun! A few times I’ve been late…).As I got about a mile away from Bay House I saw the road closures being put out, marshals getting ready and then the steady stream of runners heading to the HQ. I arrived just after 9.30am so I had more than enough time. And actually bumped straight into Martin and some fellow Hedgies as I hit 4 miles. Perfect timing.We headed into the Bay House grounds (which always reminds me of Harry Potter – it’s a lovely building) and collected our bibs super fast and easily. It was well organised and the volunteers all lovely and friendly. Hilariously Martin’s dog, Harvey, did the biggest, steamiest poo right in the middle of the playground amongst all the runners. Martin’s wife, Helen, was mortified. I mean, of all the places, right? It was quite amusing though.As Martin headed to the bag-drop (I had nothing with me, the luxury of running to an event) I headed to the loo. The queues though were massive for both of the more obvious loos. Side note: it was SO weird being back at Bay House. The last time I was there was collecting my A-Level results (*cough* 2006? Jeeeesus). Like a walk in the past! Anyway, I overhead two ladies commenting that they were so glad they’d found the loos in the changing room and I made a quick bee-line there to find no queues! Awesome.Then Martin and me reconvened and we headed to the start. Unfortunately there was around 15-20 minute delay. The lovely warmth I’d acquired from running to the start had disappeared and I began to get a bit cold. Apparently it was due to some traffic light issues and road closures… can’t be helped I guess. And then we were off.The Gosport Half Marathon is very flat and all on tarmac. There are a couple of inclines, but really nothing major. The only annoyance of this race is that if it’s windy there really isn’t any shelter. And the fact that it’s a two looper.

Gosport Half courseSource

The route runs along the coastline of Lee-On-Solent (where Lee-On-Solent parkrun happens) and I know it very well as it’s where a lot of my long runs happen. To run up and down twice was going to be mentally tough. I was very happy indeed to be running with Martin because the race doesn’t allow any sort of head/earphones at all. So Martin and me started around 8 min/miles quite comfortably chatting away.My dad was on the course as well and was planning on moving to another location, so would see us four times (because of the loops). Pretty good! Martin’s lovely wife and adorable pooch was also going to be on the course as well, amongst lots of local supporters (and the legend that is Rebecca – the Lee-On-Solent RD, otherwise known as the nicest woman on the planet).The first stretch passed through the Lee café/shop area where there was lots of support and cheering and then headed down to Hill Head where my dad and me often go to walk our dogs. We then turned around and headed back – but this time along the promenade rather than the road.There were nice parts where you could see people coming the other way so you were able to shout over to people and cheer them on. There were lots of local runners and Hedgies doing it so there was always someone to wave to and cheer on. There was a great samba band which was cool as well. There were a number of water stations (I think at least two stations but we obviously went through them each twice due to the loop. They had those squeezy bladder things which took a bit of sorcery to get into (though far more safe underfoot as they just give way straight away).
We saw my dad several times on the course which was lovely. He’d told me at what miles he’d be at and he literally stood on the road markings for those miles. A man of his word. He cheered us on and took some photos. The perfect supporter 😉
At around 7 miles we reached back to where we’d started and we turned around to do the loop again. We were still chatting away and in a good place. Martin seemed to be alright and I was feeling quite good, despite the four miles beforehand. As we got closer to the turnaround bit near Hill Head (around 9-10 miles) I noticed Martin not talking as much. He told me to carry on chatting but not to expect much of a reply. He was struggling a little – nothing major but just needed to “regroup” and focus. I did what I do best: talk about fluff and nonsense and hoped he was OK.As we got back on the prom we started slowing down a bit. We crept near 9 min/miles. I wondered how this was going to go. Martin told me to go on without him and I told him not to be so silly. I wasn’t running the half for a time and wasn’t going to leave him behind. The tricky miles were 11-12 where our speed dropped.The hard part about this half is that you can see where you’ve got to run to, and it looked really far away. Mentally this is tough. Even though we had “less than a parkrun to go”, the distance still loomed out ahead of us, hugging the coastline.As we got to just one mile away Martin got back in the game and our pace bumped back up towards 8 min/miles. I ran ahead of him and kept checking behind to make sure I didn’t run too far away. I wanted him to use me as a target and almost like a pull to keep him going. After we’d seen my dad at mile 11 he shouted that he’d see me at the finish. Then as we got closer to the finish I saw him drive past us and then wait in the queue of traffic waiting to be let through due to the road closures. He beeped and shouted out the window which was fun. I jokingly said to Martin something along the lines of “BMW drivers, eh!” hehe. The crowds and excitement built nicely as we got closer to the finish and this spurred us on. We managed to finish strongly, just two minutes off his PB (my time was 1:46:40). I’m proud of Martin because despite wobbling a little, he came back strong, and considering he hadn’t been training for a half PB he did fantastically!
I really enjoyed this race. It was a fantastic course, well organised and the weather certainly helped. Though the conditions were ideal, I’m glad I didn’t attempt racing it. I’m not really in that frame of mind at the moment and I’m much more preferring a social long run. To be honest, I got a solid 17 miles in around 8 minute miles so I can’t complain at all! And I felt good and didn’t get injured, so happy days!Also, can we talk about just how good the goodie bag was? Not only did we get a very cool and colourful medal but we got a proper material bag, a juice drink, a banana, Mini Cheddars, a Lion Bar, a cereal bar AND a homemade chunk of cake! I was a little dismayed at first not to find water but actually there was a huge water stand right at the finish where you could grab a few cups. It must be said though, I did actually give the contents of the bag to the food bank when I went to Tesco a bit later (obviously not the homemade cake 😉). They’re not really the sort of things I’d snack on but I hate wasting food.

So the demons are GONE. Gosport Half Marathon done and dusted. Another race failure scrubbed out. Long may this good running continue…

What do you like to see in a goodie bag?

Have you ever run to a race?

Bottles, cups or squeezy water things for a race?

**Thank you Michelle, Hammy and Martin Lewis for the great photos (and my dad of course)**

Queen Elizabeth parkrun and cold running

Yet another spot of parkrun tourism this weekend… Saturday morning saw me heading out to Queen Elizabeth parkrun. It’s about a 30 minute drive away (quite substantial round these parts due to the plethora of parkruns available along the South Coast) so I was up and out by 8am.The weather, as I was expecting, was pretty rubbish. It was raining and dark. But this barcode won’t scan by itself so off I toddled in my car to the very beautiful Queen Elizabeth Country Park. Amazingly I didn’t get lost and remembered money to take with me (though the car park ticket machine does accept card as payment as well). I think these tourisms are helping evolve me into a more rounded and able human being… getting from one place to another without issue. These are my goals in life really.Anyway, I parked up and met up with my friend Joe (the lovely guy I ran Bournemouth Marathon with a good few weeks ago who was also celebrating his 200th parkrun) and his friend Matt. Happily another running friend, Karila, (whom I’d met on the Austria Run Camp earlier in the year) was also going to be there so there were friendly faces all round.Queen Elizabeth parkrun is known to be quite a tricky one. There’s a lot of undulations and it’s on compacted trail so it’s not easy underfoot. I wasn’t expecting to do any great time, and now with the weather being utterly pants I was just happy to finish. I’ve run round QECP a few times. One of those was fairly recently when I went out on my first ever Wiggle Run Out in October – a very sociable and fantastic run, but yes very hilly!We decided to do a mini-warm-up (and I do mean mini) because we were just stood in the rain getting colder and colder. At 8.55am the running brief happened (God bless those kind-hearted volunteers – not a particularly great day for them I imagine!). Then we headed up the hill to the start-line. There weren’t many people at all, but there were a lot of dogs who were getting very excited. You could barely hear for the dog’s barking! And then one little dog managed to escape off from his owner before they could put a lead on him and we all watched as the dog ran between our legs, dashing all over the place, away from his owner. It just needed some Benny Hill music really. Eventually the little guy was caught and we could get outside ready to begin.The good thing about this parkrun is that the first 100m really does separate the group out. It’s a tough uphill beginning and within 30 seconds my legs were like “oh hey this isn’t fun!”. But it was fantastic at getting you warm quickly! And for that I was grateful. Kindly Joe had also let me borrow his gloves as I knew my hands would struggle to get warm (though the rest of me was fine, even in shorts and a t-shirt – albeit soaked through).

After the first brutal uphill we were then flying downhill. This was rather precarious. It was so slippy – grass, mud and, the worst bit, clay. Wet clay is like glass, you just cannot get a grip on it even with trail shoes (of which I was of course wearing!). But I let myself go a bit and flew downhill. I managed to catch up to Matt, who’s usually faster than me, as he was taking things a bit more sensibly due to the fact that he wasn’t wearing trail shoes and had taken his glasses off due to the rain. But I grabbed those weaknesses and took no prisoners 😉

QE parkrun is two laps: one smaller one and then one bigger one. As we finished the first one (I dared not even look at my watch as I was so concerned with where my feet were going) we then headed back up the hill we started on (such a grind) for the second loop. It was tough going and Matt overtook me, being the stronger runner (by the way Joe was far ahead). After what seemed to be forever we then reached the top and there was another crazy downhill. In effort to get past Matt I let myself go once again and got past him. Every downhill I went for it to gain some distance from him (I’m pretty sure he was entirely unaware that I was racing him…).

While trying to be speedy I was also trying not to fall over or get injured. I have ONE week until the Gosport Half Marathon and I am desperate to do it. Not because I want a good time or anything like that but because this is the fifth time I’ve entered and I’ve never run it due to injury! It would be rather fitting to get injured one week before…but no I remained on my feet and clocked a speedy last mile before grinding the final incline to the finish… ahead of Matt! (I will stress though, I was racing him and he was taking the downhills sensibly so really the victory is entirely fake).My time was 23:05 (with a 6.30min/mile for the last mile due to the insane downhills!). I was happy with that. I managed to get 12th place overall (third female) which is one of my top positions I think. There were only around 60 people. Apparently they usually get around 70, and it peaks to 100 in the summer. So a very quiet one. And what’s nice is that the start, because it’s so uphill, does separate everyone out nicely.

We were all rather muddy after the run so we did a fun photo of the backs of our legs (and bums!). It was quite an awkward photo as I had to ask someone, who I didn’t know, to take the photo. I said it was going to be of the backs of us to show our muddiness and he laughed. Runners are a little crazy I guess!We’d all had a fun run – Joe came third in the end!We decided to head to the cafe and wait for Karila there as it was still tipping it down and we were getting cold. Bless Karila, she managed to fall over on one of the downhills but she was OK and enjoyed herself. In the cafe I clocked the cakes but ultimately decided to have a Full English Breakfast instead as I was a) hungry and b) really cold. Warm food would serve me far better! And you got a free hot drink with it – for £5.95! When Karila arrived we all ordered the same and then tucked in to a delicious big plate of goodness (OK “goodness” is probably a lie).Annoyingly though as Karila had been one person behind us in the queue her breakfast took AGES to come. Like literally 20 minutes after ours. It was a bit ridiculous. But it was nice to all chat about running, parkrun challenges (Karila and I are both doing the alphabet challenge and had both just gotten our ‘Q’).Karila is wearing the new Marathon Talk buff made by our lovely and very talented friend, Sarah – love the design! I also met the famous Wonky Bear who travels all over the UK doing different parkruns. He’s made from the old sponsor high-vis kit, which is such a cool idea!And then we said our goodbyes and I headed home to have the longest, hottest shower known to man. Ahh so good.

That evening I went and saw Thor Ragnarok with a rather large bag of pick ‘n’ mix sweets. I do love eating ridiculous amounts of sweets sometimes. I know there are people in the world who aren’t nearly as greedy as me that are content to eat a few sweets and then save them for later. Well, I’m just not that person. I’m an “all or nothing” kinda girl and those sweets didn’t stand a chance.The film was really good. Really funny. I’m not a die-hard Marvel fan if I’m honest, or superhero film person in general, but I do like the Thor films (as well Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-Men series). I really like how lighthearted the film was and that the final third, which is usually the “smashy crashy” section of action-films, was still just as good as the other bits.

Sunday morning I had a lovely lie-in (until just after 8am) and then I met with my friend Mike for a long run. Mike isn’t training for anything in particular (and the jammy sod is off to South Africa in a few weeks on holiday!) so was content to run “just” 10 miles, whereas I was looking more for 15. But running the 10 miles with him was far more preferable than running the entire 15 miles on my own. It was a cold run, with cold wind blowing at us and I was glad to have remembered my gloves. Especially as I tripped over during the run and as I landed I put my hands out in front of me and they scraped along the tarmac. I would have lost of a layer of skin had I not been wearing my gloves! Luckily I only grazed my knee slightly and bumped my elbow so there was no real damage (THANK GOD). I don’t usually fall over on runs (surprisingly considering how clumsy I usually am in life) so this was quite a shock.15 milesAfter the 10 miles Mike headed back to his car whereas I put my headphones on and headed for another 5 miles. I listened to a podcast and just zoned out. Thankfully it didn’t feel like a slog and I found the miles flew by quickly. I got back to my car and just as I got inside it started pelting it down with rain. So lucky! I was only wearing a t-shirt and shorts and I’m sure I would have been really cold if I’d have gotten wet.The rest of Sunday was an easy-day of doing chores, walking Alfie and visiting Westlands Farm Shop with my dad. My dad and me love cooking and all things food so it was a fun thing to do in the afternoon. I love buying meat from places where you know the animals are treated well and it’s sustainable. Yes it’s more expensive but considering this is what you’re putting into your body it’s worth it!I got myself some beef meatballs that were “infused” with lemon and garlic, rolled in paprika and stuff with cheddar. I mean, yum! I also got some black pudding, which is literally one of my favourite things (and I was sad that my fry-up the day before didn’t come with any).

And so that was my weekend. Marathon training is looking good so far – touch wood!

Have you ever done Queen Elizabeth parkrun?

What does your ideal fry-up contain?

Are you layering up for winter yet?