MarathonTalk Austria Run Camp 2018 – part 2

So my blog has been offline for what seems like AGES due to virus issue I had. Thankfully I had some solid IT support (thanks Dad and Kyle) and it’s now back online. I’ve got so much to catch you up on…Firstly Part 2 of the now very delayed Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp recap. Catch up with Part 1 HERE.Thursday’s run was going to the epic run to Mariazell, the local town. Like most of the runs we did this week, it was very similar to last year. But this didn’t make it any less fun, or hard. We ran straight from the lodge, past our lake to basically up a mountain. It was a real tough slog. I remember it vividly from last year and I remember slacking behind the front guys and feeling a bit sorry for myself for not being as fit as them. This time I held my own and kept up with the lovely Sarah and Max, power couple extraordinaire who are super fast marathoners (FYI they CYCLED from Lyon to get to Austria for the camp, I mean WHAT – literally over 1,000 miles! They also have some cool World Records for doing marathons in fancy dress super fast).The hill did go on seemingly forever though…OK just a mile, but solidly uphill for an entire mile is quite a trek. There were some great downhills afterwards and it was nice to stretch the legs out again after the slog. The run was beautiful. As we ran downhill we went through a forest area which then suddenly opened out onto a quiet road with some traditional Austria looking houses (with some funky gnomes guarding the front).It was just so pretty. We then got onto a track that was used as one of the pilgrimage roads. Mariazell is a very popular pilgrimage destination and throughout the week we would often see streams of people hiking, some even carrying a giant cross. Along this path there were lots of those boxes containing religious photos, flowers and offerings. It was an interesting run.Eventually we got to the top of another climb and rested for a second. A few of the guys had (sensibly) brought hydration packs but a lot of us hadn’t and as it was a very warm day we were suffering. There looked like there was a tap next to a little hut but sadly it wasn’t working. One of the girls was on a bike (as she was suffering from a niggle) and she kindly gave round some of her water. Whew. Then it was decision time. Do I just run down to Marizell and then get the ski lift to the café at the top, or do I run up the very steep incline instead? Steep climb it was! I decided I’d run for as long as I could and then hike the rest.It became a bit of a battle of wills as to who would start walking first but I think I was probably that person. My legs were BURNING. But then I decided a run-walk strategy was probably the most sensible and I caught up with the two guys who were continuously running anyway. The real star of the show was Max who kept to a very slow but consistent run and managed to get past us all. Consistency seemed best! But I enjoyed my spurts of running and then walking as I method to get up. That said, the walking became less of a relief and it was just cycling through which muscles were burning the most towards the end.When we got to the top, over two miles of VERY steep climbs, I ran straight to the café and basically gasps “wasser, bitte, wasser”. Water was of the upmost necessity. I downed an ice cold pint of water before asking for another. The server was so nice and gave us all water. SO needed. Then we met up with the others who had decided to take it slower or take the ski lift and had a lovely ice cold lemon fizzy water (sparkling water with lemon juice – very zest and refreshing). Whew!!From there we ran the very downhill, steep mile to Mariazell. I was feeling quite tired by this point and decided to not run stupid speeds down the very precariously rocky downhill path. Unfortunately the lovely Tina who was on the bike took a tumble while she was biking downhill and cut up her knees. It was actually quite gruesome but she was very chipper about it all and went to the pharmacy for some bandages. Bless her.In Mariazell we all stopped for a light refreshment. I had a coffee and an apple – though I’d have loved an ice cream. But a few us were going to run back (about five miles or so) so I decided to give it a swerve. Some of the guys headed back in the mini-bus but a few us, with Martin, ran back. We were very much dependent on a route on John’s watch and it made for an interesting run. A few wrong turns and running up a pointless hill, but otherwise it was a fantastic run.Towards the end, about a mile and half to go, I got a second wind and found myself picking up the pace. I probably overcooked it too soon because I started fading towards the end as we got back to our lake. But it was a good finisher!

And then we all jumped into the lake as soon as we got our trainers off. Oh god it was SO good. I was so hot and tired and the lake was so cold and refreshing. I properly swam out and felt very at one with the world in that moment!In the end we’d run 16 miles in total for that day. It was a beast of a day and one I thoroughly enjoyed. We got back to the lodge and it was a case of how much food could I consume within the shortest amount of time, having not eaten since breakfast and it now pushing 4pm!! We were all a bit like wild animals at this point shoveling food down. It was fantastic.

That evening I had a massage with the lovely Karila (so needed) and I fell asleep during it! I was so relaxed and tired and she has a very soothing voice… Most evenings we also did a bit of yoga with Max leading us through a routine. I loved this! I don’t normally do yoga (though I do some stretching routines at the gym) and with all the running I found this super helpful to keep my legs feeling less like they’d been run over each day. It was very hard to not fall asleep again though in the end bit though…

That evening we had the quiz and, like last year, it was immensely fun. We had all nicely bonded and were having good banter 🙂 It was a great end to a really fantastic day.Unfortunately the next day we had the run I was least looking forward to. And almost foreshadowing my feelings the weather had taken a turn and it was a bit chilly and rainy. Ah well. This run was the last run and it was basically a 10k eliminator on a set course Martin had created. The idea being that we had to finish as close to 11am as possible in a set location. We just had to predict what time we’d do (max effort, no sandbagging) and start at that corresponding time. I gave myself a lot of headaches over this run.

I didn’t like the idea that I couldn’t run it how I wanted to….I didn’t like that I had to push myself when I didn’t really want to… I don’t like 10ks…. I wasn’t feeling in good enough shape to do a “good” time. Basically I was being a bit of a wet blanket about the whole affair. I’m very stubborn and only like to “try” at races when it suits me and get a bit grumpy if I’m forced to do something I’m not up for.Anyway, after much debate (with myself) I settled on 46 minutes. My PB is 42 minutes but I’d be nowhere near that but at the same time I didn’t want to say 50… I probably should have to take the unwanted pressure off so I could enjoy the run but ehhh.

We ran just under a mile to the starting place and everyone got ready for their respective starting times. It was drizzling and chilly. I was grumpy. I would be starting with Simon, Sarah (super speedster) and Tim. At 10:14am we headed off. Within a few minutes I was being left behind, despite sticking to a fairly even and (what I thought) was a reasonable pace to achieve 46 minutes. But everyone has their own pacing strategies of course. Soon I was lagging behind and feeling very miserable. Oh I know I was being a right pathetic piece of work. So many negative thoughts were spiraling around my head. By mile two I had pretty much given up. My legs were tired, my pace was slowing down and 46 minutes now sounded highly unrealistic. I decided to just give up on that goal and run however I wanted. Sod this stupid challenge <– throwing my toys out of the pram there.There was a very nasty hill that went on for about half a mile and I managed to catch Tim up as I seemed to be hit the incline with a renewed sense of vigor. Hmmm OK this wasn’t *so* bad. As I got to the downhill I decided to just let go. I could gain back some of the speed I lost at the beginning. In that sprint downhill I caught Simon up and managed to overtake him on the turnaround. This again bolstered my confidence. It wasn’t a race between us as we wanted to finish at the same time, but it made me feel more confident that I was back on track. Then we headed back to the start (it was an out-and-back route). I powered the uphill again and then powered the downhill. Now I was in the zone. I saw Sarah in the distance and made it my mission to catch her up. As I headed back I overtook the other guys who had stated before me. I wondered if I was overcooking it but I decided to hell with it. I’d rather push it now that I was feeling it again.As I raced towards the finish, having now overtaken Sarah just, about half a mile or so away, Martin, Connor and James thundered past me. I thought they’d over-cooked it as I was spot on with my timing (or so I thought). But then 6.1 miles ticked past (as did 46 minutes) and I realised I was going to have a long course. I finished in 46:36 at 6.3 miles. Turns out when I did the turnaround I went too far as most people turned before a barrier whereas I went on to the bridge a bit further on (personally I blame Martin’s poor instructions ;-)). But I was happy to have 46 minutes on my watch at least. What a turnaround from the sour puss mood I was in at the start eh! Everyone else did really well too. So a solid if challenging last run!To be honest, this recap could continue on and be even more long than it currently is. I could keep going on and on about how amazing this trip was (again) but I’ll leave it here. It was such a fun adventure full of fun and lovely people. I had a fabulous time. Martin, the organiser, is a cool and fun guy, he doesn’t crowd you or dictate what we should do. He’s very chilled and relaxed. I’m not sure how I’d get on at a “proper” training camp (the 10k eliminator run shows my willingness for that sort of thing eh) but this is perfect. Relaxed running, beautiful scenery and fun people. I thoroughly recommend!Have you ever been on a running holiday?

Do you like to be competitive with others or yourself?

Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp 2018 – part 1

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

I went to last year’s Austria Run Camp so I was at somewhat of an advantage, knowing what to expect. There were a few others returning as well so I was excited to see them and to meet the new people. As expected, everyone was absolutely lovely. So many different backgrounds and experience with running, it was just so interesting chatting to everyone. It was also lovely to see Rob, who looks after the lodge we stay in, and his now partner Fiona. They got together after the trip last year when she was one of the campers! How sweet is that? They’re both such lovely people, they’re very well suited.Anyway, so after a rather carsick-inducing minibus ride to the lodge (oh those winding roads…), we arrived in Styria.The accommodation is a beautiful former hunting lodge and still very much rocking those themes with antlers all over the place and old fashioned furniture and wood-everything. My room was gorgeous and had such a beautiful view out to the front. I even had my own bathroom which was great.After having some welcome drinks and meeting everyone properly, we then headed out for a gentle 5k run (two laps of the lake which was literally just outside the villa). It was a beautiful evening and everyone was in such good spirits. Beautiful views, lovely people and five days ahead of running to look forward to. What could be better?The next morning a few of us decided to get up a bit earlier, before breakfast, to have a quick dip in the lake. I mean, it was VERY quick. The temperature of the lake was absolutely baltic – far colder than last year. It seemed that Austria hadn’t quite been hit with the same heat wave as Britain had and while it was certainly warm and sunny, this hadn’t affected the lake that much.It was a fun experience nonetheless. Breakfast, like all the meals, were a communal affair in the big dining room.

The first run was a relatively gentle 7.5 miles to Annaberg, the nearby little town. This run was a steady uphill climb but it was lovely and relaxed and I felt strong and happy. The temperature was lovely and warm and it was sunny – I was glad to have remembered sun ran lotion! We stopped at a little spring to grab some water. It was cold and refreshing.This run was great because it allowed us to all chat and get to know each other. It was also nice to catch up with old running friends – some I made on last year’s Austria trip or other Marathon Talk meet-ups. Everyone was super friendly, the views were fantastic and it was just everything I love about running. No one caring about paces or minding to stop for photos. We eventually arrived at Annaberg (*cough* clearly my home town, eh). And we had a coffee and shared round some cake.Then we were back on the road to head back to the lodge. This was 6.4 miles, and started with a lovely downhill but then a fairly hilly climb. Basically most of the running we did was very lumpy! And while it was challenging, it was good fun.We had a great downhill section back to the lake which a few of us steamed off the front to stretch the legs a bit. I had the route on my watch (technology, eh!) and while I did stress to everyone I was probably the last person you’d want to trust with the navigation, we did manage to get back. I know, I’m as surprised as you. We got to the lake and immediately stripped off a few layers and got into the cold water. It was lovely!

And then it was a quick march back to the lodge for lunch. Lunch was always a buffet affair with mostly cold meats, cheeses, salads and garlic bread. It filled a hole! We also had a good rule that no phones were to be used at the dinner table. This made sure that we didn’t switch off from each other. It was a good reminder to put the screens away and enjoy each other’s company. At first I was a bit twitchy (the self-confessed phone addict that I am…) but afterwards it became more natural. Rather than checking out my Strava of the run or going onto Instagram pointlessly, I chatted more and appreciated the time away. Don’t get my wrong, I still Instagrammed the shit out of everything but just not when I was sat around other people in times of chatting and being social! 😉

In the mornings I got myself into a nice routine of waking up a bit earlier and doing a lap’s walk round the lake. It was about a half an hour walk and I found it helped loosen up my legs from the previous day’s run (something that became more needed as the week went on!) and it was a lovely peaceful time to listen to a podcast or music. I would often do an afternoon walk as well. As much as it’s lovely to be around interesting and like-minded people, it’s also nice to take some time out and just reflect on the day and have some “me time”. That sounds a bit “out there” but it’s something I really enjoy and why (amongst hundreds of other reasons) that I love having a dog.Anyway after my walk and breakfast, we headed out to Gemeindealpe where we caught a ski lift up to a half-way point of this very scenic mountain. Then we ran just over a mile basically straight up.I say run, there was lots of walking as well! And handily timed photo stops 😉Like many of the other runs we did this week, it was the same as last year, but this is no way made it any less beautiful or fun (/hard). It just meant I knew what was to come.We made it to the top, had a nice little break taking photos and having a drink in the café… and a bit of fun in the children’s park (possibly the most scenic children’s play area around) before heading off to then run across a ridge and then down the mountain.
It was SO much fun. This was possibly my favourite day (though it’s a tough call). The run downhill started on compacted stony tracks but then descended into a forest and it was all about tiny quick steps across stones and branches. You had to use so much concentration to focus on not missing a step, not tripping over and not twisting an ankle. I loved it! Again a few of us stretched out ahead – but it’s OK guys, I’ve got the route on my watch! No problem!Except we did in fact go the wrong way when we reached the bottom. In fairness, it wasn’t entirely clear which direction we were supposed to go… as we got closer to the lake that sat at the bottom of the mountain I realised we’d made the wrong decision (I say “we” to shift some blame but realistically we all know this was my fault). It was fiiine. All we had to do was wade across a river, climb over a precariously built tall fence and then hack our way through a forest of giant leafy (and stinging) plants. Totally fine. Our Strava Flybe was somewhat amusing it must be said….Anyway everyone arrived at the lake safe and sound in the end – a solid seven miles. We were all very hot. The lake looked very inviting. And so did the giant slide! OK it might have been for kids but this didn’t hold us back. A bunch of us (yes Martin included) headed immediately for the slide. Bloody fantastic! And this lake was a lot less cold than our lake (not warm! But definitely a few degrees higher). Then we chilled with ice cream and a cold drink. I mean, what better way to finish a run eh?That evening we chilled out watching the football with two giant bowls of crisps. Brilliant.The next day we had intervals planned. Now I know I’ve been on it with speed work fairly recently but with my calf being a bit sensitive and knowing that I would be doing so many miles on running over the week I decided it would be best if I didn’t do them. This might sound a little like I chickened out (and you’d probably be half right) but realistically it was me being a sensible runner. I know my body and I know when my calf is feeling sensitive the last thing to do is bosh out a load of sprinting. Plus I was in a certain frame of mind where I needed to get away from everyone for a bit and do a bit of solo running. Some escapism and Anna-only time.I ran with the guys to the spot where they’d be doing the intervals and then I headed out for a 10k run of my own. I was a bit dubious that I’d get lost on my own but I had a fairly simple out-and-back planned (if in doubt, Anna, always do an out-and-back). It was such a lovely run on my own. It was along a track under the trees and relatively flat until it got to a rather grueling hill. It didn’t go on for too long though thankfully and then there was a glorious stretch of downhill which I gently plodded down, rather than powering down as I had the day before. This run was about the chill and ‘clearing my mind’ factor. A very lovely and gentle run, far better for my mind and body than blasting out crazy sprints.Afterward I watched the end of the intervals and then we all headed to the nearby café (the only café within a short distance of the lodge) and had a cold drink and cake with everyone.That evening we had a fantastic BBQ (which included some locally roaming venison). We chilled, we chatted, and of course we ate 😀
What I love about the Austria Run Camp is that it’s very much not just about the running. Yes the running is important of course but realistically by lunchtime we’re usually done. It’s just nice to chat to other runners from all walks of life in a relaxed and beautiful environment. I would find myself taking an impromptu nap on the sofa in the living room or chatting to Martin and the others about the pros and cons of social media, or lounging in the sunshine on the terrace just watching the world go by (and a very slow-paced world so far away from the crazy busy world I normally live in).The running was done in a relaxed way, nothing set in stone, nothing dictated… no real structured training or seriousness. This is the kind of running I love. I’ll leave my recap there for now…

Have you ever been to Austria?

Do you enjoy more structured or relaxed training?

Have you ever been to a training camp?

Marathon Talk Run Camp – part 2

On to the Sunday of the Marathon Talk Run Camp at Sandy Balls in the New Forest, we had a 10 mile “eliminator” style run planned.

*Catch up with Part 1 of the Run Camp here!*

So the idea was that we had a 10 miles race, but there were two stipulations (asides from a set course over the New Forest countryside – following a similar route to the Heartbreaker Half): one was that we had to finish at 12. You were given on point for every second you finished before 12 and two seconds for every second after 12. The more points the worse you did. The second stipulation was that you weren’t allowed to wear a watch, or if you did it had to be taped over. Essentially you had to pace yourself on feel only.

This did make me somewhat anxious. Not knowing my pace or the number of miles I’d done… I mean, what! I already knew I was going to run it as an easy long run but this meant I really had to tap into my body as to what easy actually was without having any paces fed back to me. Tough. Especially as I do tend to run quicker than I should for easy runs. I decided to go with starting at 10:40, to give myself an hour and 20 minutes, which would mean 8.30min/miles…not that i would be able to properly tell!

In the morning, the lodge was all up around the same time. John decided not to run to be super sensible about a pesky niggle he was experiencing – very wise of him. But the rest of us would be running and would be leaving at different times because of their different paces they’d be running and time goals. I didn’t have any breakfast as I never do before long runs so could have a little bit of a lie-in (thank god for finding my ear plugs). James, Michelle and I walked down to the start area together as we were roughly going around the same time and wanted to walk. I mean, just to be clear, I wasn’t going anywhere near as fast as those guys  but it was nice to have the warm up walk beforehand together.Unfortunately I left it a little too late and literally arrived at the start with about 20 seconds to go before I needed to start. Happily my fried Ade was there starting at the same time (what a nice coincidence!) and a very lovely lady called Jenny. We all decided to run together which was great. None of us wanted to push the pace so it was a good conversational run. Because the course was a T shape it meant there were a few out and back sections so we could cheer on other runners who had gone out before us and were coming back down a path we were running along, making it a lovely social run.Unfortunately, because we were talking so much we missed the TWO turnaround arrows on the floor. We didn’t realise until we reached a car park – about 0.25 miles on from the turnaround. We quickly headed back in a bit of a panic (no wonder it had suddenly got quiet with no other runners about!). This meant we’d added about half a mile to our route. As if pacing 10 miles wasn’t hard enough with having no watch, we now had to either quicken up to make up the over-distance or find a way to lose 0.5 miles.We were now no longer plodding along happy as Larry… we were brainstorming where to turn early or what time it was or what pace we were doing. Argghh! We decided that we’d turn around early at the next part of the “T”. I was concerned I hadn’t seen Michelle or James… when we finally saw them heading back along the other “T” they looked at us confused as this was far too late to be seeing us now. We decided a few minutes further to turnaround because at this point we’d never catch up with the main group of people – and therefore would not finish before 12.God, honestly it hurt my brain to try working everything out and adjusting ourselves to other people. Of course we assumed everyone else had their pacing strategy perfect which of course invariably they did not, making it even more of a mess.We even panicked further on thinking we might not even make 10 miles if we’d have turned too soon. What would be worse than finishing too late would be finishing the run having not even completed the 10 miles! So we collectively decided to turn around again and do a tiny out and back to make sure we’d hit 10 miles…just to be safe as we were worried we’d turned around too soon. We agreed we’d rather do over 10 miles than under. This did make us look a bit silly as other runners passed us… they must have thought we were trying to cheat which just mortified me. I tried to explain what we were doing but mostly people just looked bemused at us. Dear oh dear.Regardless of this silly mess-up (the curse of running with the idiot that is Anna? Quite possibly), it was a lovely lovely run. The sun was out, the views were beautiful, it wasn’t that windy and we were still enjoying each other’s company. Despite feeling somewhat stressed and generally in a state of confusion (my natural state perhaps), I was thoroughly enjoying the run. As we got closer to the finish we picked up our speed. The end finishes on a horrible horrible steep uphill. James was at the top looking all chilled and fresh having finished about 10 minutes before (he over-shot it) while we scrambled up, everything burning, and me trying not to look like I was dying. Probably failed there ha.
In the end we finished 1 minute and 40ish seconds over 12… so not too bad considering we’d also run 0.6 miles over the 10 miles!! Ahh what idiots we were 😉 But we all agreed we enjoyed the run, chat and the farce of trying to figure out how to rectify the situation. Smiles all round. John was at the finish cheering us all in which was nice.James and I then walked back to the lodge… James had forgotten that he’d been looking after Chris and Kate’s key for their car so while we were walking back, blissfully unaware, another car caught up to us with Kate in it asking for the key back as they couldn’t drive back… oh dear. For once not an Idiot Anna Move – not my fault at all ha.

We got back to the lodge and I got into the shower pronto as I needed to wash and blow-dry my hair (I was so grateful that the guys let me go first, very kind of them – sharing a shower between six people is tough!). And then we headed off to the lunch with the Marathon Talk crew – a delicious Sunday roast dinner with all the trimmings. Delicious!Then it was a case of saying goodbye to everyone. Obviously this also meant getting my standard photo with Martin and Tom…I’ve now done this every year I’ve been and the motage is quite cool.I know this is going to sound like overly sentimental guff (of which I rarely like to do) but Marathon Talk is such a fantastic community of people. I’ve met so many good friends through it and had such brilliant times with the different events (not to mention the actual podcasts themselves being a good listen). I hope to continue being involved in more events they put on! So big thanks to them.

For once I’d decided this year to stay until Monday as James, John and Michelle were too and it was nice not to rush off. So we headed back to the lodge to chill for a bit and then later we decided to head to a local pub down the road for dinner…the roast dinner clearly hadn’t touched the sides.Happily a few others joined us: Mark, Vicky and Stuart from the Austria Run Camp and Mark’s friend Caroline. Such a lovely bunch of people!I went for rump steak with a jacket potato and Stilton sauce….SO good. Followed by a large wedge of bread and butter pudding with ice cream. Perfection. We said goodbye to the others who were leaving and then headed back.The next morning, we got ourselves sorted. Michelle, the crazy girl, went out for a 5k run while James, John and I went for a walk to find the actual Sandy Ball, which I didn’t realise existed! The weather was lovely and it was a perfect way to end such a great weekend.Happy legs, happy tummy, happy heart.

Are you involved in any running or fitness communities?

Have you met friends through running that you stay in touch with?

Have you ever gone wrong in a race?

Marathon Talk Run Camp – part 1

Marathon Talk Run Camp in Sandy Balls (yes Sandy Balls) is one of my favourite running events of the year. It’s run by the Marathon Talk podcast, hosted by Martin Yelling and Tom Williams and is basically a weekend of very relaxed and fun running activities.

I’ve now done it four times, and it’s been running for five (I missed the second one). I’ve met some solid friends who I’m sure I’ll be friends with for a long time. This year there were lots of familiar faces going, from both previous Sandy Balls camps and also the Austria Run Camp I did last year. So a very cool crowd and I was super excited. It’s just such a relaxed event – you don’t have to do any running if you can’t/don’t want to, but you get to socialise with other runners and have a bit of a jolly.

Happily I was sharing a lodge with some of these fantastic people. It was a brilliant bunch, and even sharing one bathroom between the six of us didn’t mar the occasion (something I’d probably have been super stressed about before). We had lots of banter, discussions and cake. I was sharing with James, John and Michelle and a couple (Kate and Chris) who I didn’t really know beforehand but who were just lovely.I arrived on Friday night straight from work. I had a teeeeeeeny mishap of missing a few turnings which caused me a lot of stress (*cough* I’m not blaming anyone buuuuuut someone told me to not listen to the SatNav because of a road closure and well, that didn’t work so well for my brain. I may have gotten a little stroppy…).  Anyway, Anna-isms aside, I finally made it and eventually the whole lodge gang met up with the rest of the Marathon Talk crew and caught up and chatted away. Martin and Tom were there and it was a very relaxed and fun evening.The next morning we were up relatively early to head out to Moors Valley parkrun as a big group (we’re talking around 100 people here). I’d had a terrible night sleep because the lodge is quite loud (creaking and loud doors with thin walls) and I’m such a light sleeper but I was raring to go. It was cold though. Very cold. We carpooled to Moors Valley and then stood shuffling around in the coldness moaning about the cold, as you do.
My friend Ade was at the camp this year again which was nice as he’s been a previous years and it’s always nice to catch up with him. We then had the standard Marathon Talk group photo and then headed to the start. Jo Pavey was there too (as she was there for the Marathon Talk weekend to give a Q&A and just generally be involved) so it was cool to line-up with her. Luckily Moors Valley had been pre-warned about the arrival of 100+ extra people descending about them so it wasn’t a shock. I wasn’t intending on running very fast as I’m just coming back from my hamstring/calf debacle. Unfortunately I’d put myself far too close to the back though that as we started it took about 30 seconds for me to actually start running…and then a kilometre of winding round people as politely as I could (always awkward).

Photo credit: Moors Valley parkrun Facebook page

As I got into the run I found my legs felt good (everything feeling nice) and I had a bit more energy than I thought. Moors Valley is on compacted trail and is fairly flat, asides from a few gentle undulations. It has a nice out and back bit so you can cheer on faster and slower runners which I really liked, especially when I knew so many people. I managed to maintain a fairly steady pace without rinsing myself, making me feel very really good that I haven’t lost everything since being semi-injured. I finished 22:35. Very pleased indeed.Happily Michelle and James are super fast and we’d already previously had a Lodge Team Meeting to tackle the always annoyingly long cafe queue. The queue was only long due to the sudden influx of people but I’m remember waiting a long time last year so Michelle and James had been deployed to grab us a spot in the queue as they’d be fairly near the front running super fast. It worked out perfectly asides from John arriving just a tiny bit too late (he’s sort of injured at the moment and was taking it easy) and missed us orderingMy fry-up was, as always, delicious. As I knew we wouldn’t be eating again properly until later it was a good way to tide me over. Then we headed back to the lodge to chill for a bit (have a million cups of tea, foam roll, loll about in front of the fire chatting) before meeting back up and hearing a talk from Tim Cruse-Drew, who was the physio for Eddie Izzard during his amazing 40 marathons in 40 days through South Africa adventure.It was fascinating stuff to hear him talk. He explained how under-prepared Eddie was: he hadn’t drunk enough water, hadn’t done enough running prep or anything and yet was embarking on this incredible feat. Tim also mentioned how he swears by Sun Salutations as a great way to get the body warmed-up, blood circulation going getting the body to go through a full range of movements. He also said we needn’t bother with ice baths as there’s barely any difference in the benefits between ice and warmth in terms of what it actually does. Ice will just numb any pain rather than remove inflammation. Good to know!!Then we headed out for our second run. My legs felt good and I wanted to be involved so decided to join but take things nice and easily. IMG_5079Happily John felt the same so we decided to stick together in the same group (we all divided ourselves into pace groups of your goal 5k time). I went in two groups slower than my (current) goal PB with John (must have been about seven groups below John’s usual time ha!).We gently ran to a lovely nearby area in the New Forest where there was a 1k loop and 400m loop. The idea was to do 1k at comfortably tough and then 400m balls to the wall. John and I kept to conversational pace for the 1k and then sped up slightly for the 400m. It was nice and I enjoyed running and chatting. We did four repeats (with breaks in between) before jogging back. I was happy to have survived the second run (something I don’t ever do) and happy with over 8 miles for the day.IMG_5098We returned to the lodge and everyone showered and got ready for heading back to the main bit for dinner with the rest of the gang.

Dinner was a buffet and I filled my boots, now feeling very hungry (tho I did have a sneaky small sandwich after the intervals because I didn’t want to turn up the buffet and feel super hungry and grumpy – or have “hangxiety” (hungry anxious) as Kate called it. Love that term. I do actually get really anxious (hangxious) at buffets… something about the fear of food running out. And I’m greedy.But the food was more than plentiful and tasty. This was followed by a really interesting Q&A with Jo Pavey. Martin and Tom asked her loads of questions and it was just fascinating. She is so down to earth and normal. A lovely (and amazingly talented!) woman.She gave us insight what it was like to be a busy mum while also being an Olympic athlete. How she would have to find new ways to train, being flexible and adjusting her schedule. She also mentioned that when she won the gold medal she only put her arms up halfway as she didn’t truly believe she’d won. I mean, whaaaat! She also said how frustrated she was regarding the doping situation and how it ruined things for clean athletes. She clearly loves the sport and hates the negativity that stuff like this brings.After Jo’s talk, the ever amazing and inspiring Tony Audenshaw (Bob from Emmerdale!) conducted his running-themed quiz. Tony is such a legend. He is literally he nicest person. The nicest. And so funny. The quiz was fantastic. Our team won the bingo round which was great as it meant we got some Ferrero Rochers…yum! But we only Cake joint third in the quiz. Suspiciously Martin and Tom’s team won… uh huh 😉
Then we headed back to the lodges. There was a night run to do (a very very easy 4K plod) but my lodge and I were up for just chilling with a hot drink, midnight cake and chatting. I love these downtime moments of running camps. It’s just nice to chat to such lovely like-minded people.

Do you ever do double running in a day?

Have you ever tried ice baths?

What athletes inspire you?

Oxford parkrun – parkrun Alphabet Challenge progress

Saturday I headed up to the Oxford parkrun to get my ‘O’ for the parkrun Alphabet Challenge (there were multiple amusing titles I could have used but I’m keeping it a family show ;-)). For those who don’t know, the parkrun Alphabet Challenge is going to different parkruns beginning with different letters to hit all the alphabet – us runners love to collect things and tick things off.

But before that, I’ll roll back to Friday night. I went out for dinner with my good friend and running buddy, Mike (from New Forest Marathon fame). I hadn’t seen him since before Dubai and we had lots to catch up on. Our chats always feel like a warm hug in a mug – we must get back to our Thursday night runs again soon! We went to Coast to Coast as we both love that restaurant and Mike handily had a Taste card (50% off!).

I went for the chicken wings to start and the chicken fajitas for my main. This is such a boring meal selection for me as I’ve had it quite a few times, but I just really enjoy it. I’m *such* a creature of habit – as I’m sure you probably already know.And it was usual very tasty. I like an assembly meal – it slows me down! For pudding I had the cookie dough sundae which was good though a little small (how I managed to not order the chocolate fudge cake I don’t know). But handily it left enough space for pick ‘n’ mix at the cinema so you win some, you lose some.Hilariously Mike got a child’s snack box at the cinema because it was cheaper than a small popcorn and you got more popcorn, a drink and chocolate with it (no wonder child obesity is becoming an issue…). It was amusing to see him carrying it in with its little handles.We saw was Downsizing which was really good. It surprised me by going in a direction I didn’t expect. It was a totally different film to what I thought it was going to be, which was quite nice. Definitely worth a watch. All the characters were brilliant and I laughed out loud several times.

The next morning was a struggle with the alarm going off at 6.45am to leave for Oxford by 7.15am. I actually woke up briefly at 5.40am in a panic that I’d missed my alarm and was going to miss going to the gym before work – I was convinced it wasn’t the weekend! How bizarre. The journey was easy and I parked up in the car park of the actual park. Funnily enough before Saturday I’d done a bit of research in order to work out how to get there and parking. When I googled it I was surprised to see my own blog post pop up in Google haha. Completely forgotten Michelle had written this for me!

Anyway I was meeting my friend James, who was driving down from Birmingham. Handily Oxford is a half-way point for us. It’s always nice to see James, we can talk a lot abut nothing for a good amount of time. I feel like you need friends like that in your life! Our first stop were the loos. I accidentally walked in on a man having a wee which was fairly embarrassing. I guess the lock didn’t work and he didn’t seem to notice (I did back out SUPER quickly).Then we headed to the start which was located in the middle of a field. It was quite cold and a little drizzly, but thankfully not full-on raining. We realised our error of footwear fairly quickly. It was rather wet and muddy. Ah well, neither of us were aiming for a particular time anyway. James is a lot faster than me but he was aiming for a harder effort the next day so decided to take it easy and run with me. I was just aiming to run and see what happened (no change there then really eh…).We didn’t both with the briefing because we’re far too cool for that…ha! So when it came to lining up we had no idea where we were going, which direction to face or anything really. Our arrogance was not rewarded and we realised we probably should have listened to the briefing. The one thing about parkrun is, it doesn’t matter how many you’ve done, you still need to listen to a newbie briefing when you’ve not been there before. Lesson learnt.We lined ourselves up and realised we were awfully close to the front line and we shuffled back quickly (well I’m sure James would have fitted in nicely at the front but I was certainly not up for that!). The first part was a bit random as you run across the field. I always feel like running across a field feels a bit mental. But eventually we got onto the path and headed for our first lap of three. From reading the blog review of the parkrun, I believe we did a different route. But it was good fun though fairly muddy!

We chatted as we ran and it became obviously to me that I was quite out of shape for the speeds we were doing to chat easily. James was fine but I was struggling a little and wondered if I should tell James to just go ahead and leave me. But luckily there were moments when we had to slow down because the path got narrow due to the mud so I could catch my breath. The course was super flat though.The laps did seem to fly by and we were getting faster so this was good. Though I felt a little out of shape I did feel strong which was nice. At the end I passed two girls as I trailed after James. On the final stretch back across the grass I could hear one of the girls try to catch me back up but I pushed the pace and held my position. As I went through the funnel I said well done to her and thanked her for pushing me to finish strong. She seemed chuffed with her finish too so that was good. My time was just under 23 minutes (22:53). Very pleased with that! And most importantly, my calf felt OK. I’m monitoring it very closely at the moment as I don’t want to trigger it again. More on this in another post I think.We were covered in mud. We’d brought spare clothes and I had a towel in my car so we headed to the loos to sort ourselves out. Though I love running in shorts rather than leggings I regretted it as I now had to de-mudify my legs before putting my jeans on.This was somewhat of a tough challenge considering the sink wasn’t a traditional tap but one of those automatic soap-water-dryer affairs and didn’t like to be made to work too often. I also had made the mistake of wearing my holey jeans and was paranoid I still had muddy knees and would look like an unwashed lout walking round Oxford. And in true Anna style, I’d also forgotten a coat. What an idiot. Luckily it wasn’t too cold or rainy to be a big issues (I had a lovely warm jumper on) but it was still stupid.

James led the way in his car and I followed in mine to a car park in Oxford where we then went on a hunt for a nice hot drink to warm-up. We had a nice coffee in Costa before moving on to one of two possible brunch spots. We had considered the Handlebar Cafe but on closer menu inspection it didn’t look like what we wanted. So we carried on to the Organic Deli cafe which was very small and simple, but lovely. We both ordered fry-ups – very tasty but annoyingly the beans were left to contaminate the rest of my plate… fry-up fail. We chatted about running while munching. James knows so much about running and is very good at training properly (whereas I just float along at the same pace and do my marathons all around the same times). He’s very focused and goal-orientated, which is completely different to me but nice to get some of his enthusiasm and think about things a bit differently.

After refueling, we then went to the Story Museum. It seemed like a fun and interesting thing to do. It’s basically a building full of different rooms celebrating different authors and themes of children’s books.I mean, it’s mainly for kids but we had a whale of a time. There was one room where you could dress up, which obviously I got involved with.

You could also create your own plaque (choosing the different adjectives and nouns) and then sitting on the throne. Amazingly a voice reads out your plaque – we had no idea how it did this! (Mine said “The Might Wizard of the Stars”).It was strange but thoroughly enjoyable. There were so many book and film references everywhere, from Lord of the Rings to Alice in Wonderland.Upstairs was more for really young kids but we had a look around anyway – in for a penny, in for a pound! There was a giant bed where kids could lie and listen to someone reading a story. And then a row of increasing in size dressing gowns on the wall – from the very tiny to full adult sized. It was just very clever the way the rooms had been set up. As a child I would have LOVED this place. I loved reading (still do) as a child. I had a very active imagination so I reckon I could have been there for hours in heaven.After that we headed for some much needed cake and hot drink. We chose Croissant Beurre where we both had a yum yum doughnut (I mean, all doughnuts should be upgraded to yum yums, it was incredible).And then headed back to the car park where we parted ways. I’ll be seeing James again at the Marathon Talk Run Camp in a few weeks which will be cool.

So I got my O. Seven letters left. The ones I currently have planned are D (Didcot), J (Jersey), U (Upton House) and then it’s I, V, Y and Z which will be trickier. So it’s going well!

Have you been to Oxford before?

Did you read a lot as a child?

What films have you seen recently?