Afternoon Tea Connoisseur

Thank you all for your lovely and kind words for my last post. It’s a fairly rubbish situation, I won’t lie, but such is life.

Having a marathon to look forward (yes I am really looking forward to it weirdly enough) and having a training focus really helps. It means weekends are pretty much spent running, seeing friends/family, and eating. Very good uses of my time, I’m sure you’ll agree 😉 No sitting around on my own feeling sorry for myself.

This weekend was good fun. I had parkrun Saturday morning and when I looked out the window at the sunny, cloudless sky I was very happy. That was until I stepped outside to give Alfie a quick walk before I left. It was freezing! OK, not freezing, but the wind had a nasty bite to it.

I wrapped up warm to help set-up and then reluctantly peeled off my layers at the last possible minute.IMG_0370

Brrr! My legs were chilly! My friend Mike turned up without a coat in just shorts and a T-shirt and I felt very sorry for him. He was jumping around desperate to get warm. The weather can be very deceptive!

Anyway off we went. It was a frustrating run. It felt great, I pushed hard and I thought I was running faster than before…but I wasn’t. I’m consistent at least but I just cannot get past 21 minutes – not on the current course anyway. To be honest, I’m not that bothered as being near 21 minutes is good enough for me as I haven’t been there in a while and my 5k time is right at the bottom of my running wishes at the moment (keeping injury free, enjoyment and marathon training are my priorities right now). But it still irks me!

IMG_0367 I did get to wear my new Nike running top though so that was nice. It fits like a dream and is a really nice cut. Also nice that I coincidentally have a matching hair band – small things 🙂 And despite being freezing at the start, I started getting really hot on the second mile so I was glad to have worn what I did.

I saw my parents in the afternoon (after quite a cathartic deep clean in the house – very refreshing!) and my dad and me went for another nice walk along Stokes Bay with the dogs. They’re all very good after the walk at just jumping straight into the boot of the car…except Dylan.IMG_0368

Dylan, bless him, is not what you’d describe as an athletic dog…the others will zoom across the fields and chase birds, while Dylan will trot beside you gently. He’ll keep looking up at you as if to say “are we done yet?” And at the end of the walk he just lies down and rolls over when we try to get him into the car. Very cute, but a little annoying!

In the evening I saw some friends and we just hung out having a very easy evening chatting and watching Britain’s Got Talent. It was a lovely, relaxed evening. I headed back home afterwards, rather than stay at my parents (sort of got to get a grip with spending Saturday night’s alone at some point!)

This meant a new route for my long run on Sunday morning. I had 17 miles planned and decided to psychologically break it up so it didn’t seem so scary. I ran towards where my local parkrun is held (Netley Abbey) which is about 4 miles, ran around there for a bit as it’s very pretty and off-roady, then ran back past my house to find another seven miles. It almost felt like two runs if that makes sense. It also meant that on my pre-run walk with Alfie I could leave a bottle of water in a plastic bag in some bushes near my house.

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Though I actually didn’t feel thirsty at all during the bulk of the run so I left it there. It was literally only the last mile or so that I fancied any water and passed it again just at the end so it worked out nicely.

IMG_0375 The run felt really good and the change of route was a nice change. Though it had more hills than the beach run I do at my parent’s. This meant a far quicker start as I went downhill at the beginning, then slower coming back. Despite my best efforts to keep things consistently slow I just couldn’t get to grips with what I should be running with all the elevation changes. So instead I kept an eye on my heart rate and effort level.

(Ave. pace 7.59mins/mile)

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I only started to find the run tough towards the end, probably 14 miles onwards. It didn’t help that I had changed my route last minute and was having to mentally work out where to run and the mental arithmetic involved (the simplest maths becomes very tricky on a long run). My legs felt tired but not niggly or broken, so I pushed through and finished strong.

IMG_0373 Cat photo bombing!

My lovely short tan lines are reappearing again. Good job I have no holidays in sight requiring me to wear a bikini!

I enjoyed such a luxuriously hot shower after the run. It sounds weird but, as hot as I was running, there is nothing more lovely that a hot shower afterwards!

I stole borrowed my parent’s Nutribullet so I could have a post-long run smoothie. Unfortunately I had limited ingredients so it was just kale, blueberries, summer berries, almond milk and the Nutribullet super powder mix.

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There you have Smoothie Sludge. There are other descriptions but I’ll leave it to your imagination… I’m not sure why it turned so brown (all the dark berries?) but there you have it. It was edible, that’s all I’ll say. I hope my body appreciated the goodness at least! I wasn’t hungry at all so it was a struggle to drink (spoon?).

My mum popped over to go for a walk with Alfie and me which was lovely. I always find a leisurely walk after a long run really helps keep things loose. It’s tempting to sit down and stay there all day but from past experience I know this doesn’t help. Plus, who wants to be inside on such a sunny day?

Runger appeared with a vengeance suddenly as we headed back from our walk. This was handy because we’d planned to have afternoon tea. We went to a different tea room this time as unfortunately our plan to go to my local and favourite tea room, Elsie’s in Botley, had a private party.

We went to The Tea Party (another tea room in Lee-On-Solent). The perk of this place is they have a licence to sell alcohol so we had a cheeky glass of Prosecco to toast the cake occasion.

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The Tea Party is lovely and quirky with its decoration and the range of cakes looked delicious.

IMG_0380We both ordered afternoon tea. I went for ham and mustard sandwiches and a slice of lemon meringue cake (my mum had cheese and chutney sandwiches and toffee apple cake).

IMG_0386 I like to think of myself as somewhat of an afternoon tea connoisseur having done this now a fair few times so I feel I am a good judge on these things. The sandwiches were lovely. Lots of cheese for my mum and thick tasty ham for me. The scones were warm and crumbly but smaller than other tea rooms I’ve been too, and we had a small pot of cream to share between us. For someone who struggles with sharing food, this was annoying.

My cake was absolutely divine. Very light and lemony. However the slice was small. Now perhaps this is the Cake Monster within but my mum also commented that they looked small. She took hers home though in the end whereas I polished mine off very easily and quickly. Very nice, but slightly disappointing.

I probably should find better ways to refuel after long runs, but this is a far more fun way to do it!

What do you look for in a good tea room (and/or afternoon tea)?

Have you had any smoothie disasters?

How do you stay hydrated during long runs?

Walking and running (and cake of course)

Another weekend gone! And a huge well done to all you marathoners and racers. My social media went mental with it all. I loved hearing about everyone’s story and how it went, but it made me soo eager for my time to come.

I woke up on Saturday morning ready for a lovely run in the spring sunshine. I opened the curtains to find…rain and wind. Oh joy. Even Alfie wasn’t keen to go outside. But something that definitely brightened my mood was waking up to find that I had won the person of the month in Netley Abbey parkrun, which means I get to choose a free pair of trainers from Sweatshop! It was also lovely to find it wasn’t a randomly generated thing, but a committee decision. This made me feel very, very touched – thank you parkrun and Sweatshop!

But yes, the weather. I got to parkrun as normal to help set up and it was miserable.

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I was a bit grumpy and fed up. I even contemplated just going home before the running actually began. But I stopped my whinging and got on with it. The run felt a lot more hard than usual. I had heavy legs from Wednesday’s nine mile run and from the gym on Friday morning, but really I think my heart wasn’t entirely in it. This is clear from my almost minute slower time (21:56). I’m happy though – another parkrun done (49 to go until 100 woohoo haha) and I put in some effort so it was worth it. You can’t have a good run all the time.

Someone that did have a good run was this little fellow, Monty.

IMG_0293Apparently he loves running and had run over nine miles in one go in the week! I mean seriously, look at his tiny legs. Bless him, he obviously loves it. Very cute.

Later I met up with my dad to go for a walk at Queen Elizabeth Country Park (like last weekend). But this time we were going to walk up the very large Butser Hill.

IMG_0302 It doesn’t actually look that bad, but you can see the hill behind me in the photo above. I had Alfie and my dad had one of their dogs (the same breed as Alfie), Lexie. His other two dogs are Cavaliers and preferred to stay at home and sleep (being traditional lap dogs and highly lazy!)

IMG_0341 My dad isn’t in particular good shape and needs to lose a bit of weight but he was keen to get up the hill. He found it quite hard work but he made it and it actually didn’t take him that long at all! I’m so proud of him. The dogs, needless to say, rocketed up and down the hill as we worked our way up. They loved it! Alfie is very good off his lead and continuously looks behind him to make sure I’m still there, as if he’s worried I’ll disappear, and never goes too far away. I’ve only just started letting him off his lead so I was a bit nervous, but he’s very good and a lot more friendly to other dogs (not that he was ever particularly unfriendly, just more wary) when he’s off his lead than on. I think it’s because he’s more in control and knows he can run away if he needs to, bless him.

IMG_0309This is one of my favourite photos of him ever. He just looks so happy and free. I’ve never seen him run so fast!

IMG_0312 We made it!

The afternoon was lovely, though it was very windy at the top of the hill. We did some more walking at the top, where there were lovely paths and stretches of land. And then we headed back down – which obviously was a lot easier!

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We sat down at the coffee shop to relax a bit…and for me to have cake.

IMG_0336I had a slice of bread pudding. I’ve never seen this cake before and it looked absolutely scrumptious. Big plump dried fruits and so moist. Not overly sweet – which means I could probably eat far too much if I ever had access to the entire cake!

The next day I had my usual long run planned, this time 15 miles. I was tossing between 15 and 16 as I wanted to run 17 miles next weekend and don’t want to jump mileage too much but having run nine miles in the week I was dubious. Happily I didn’t need to make the decision really as I got slightly lost and my route turned out to be exactly 15.5 miles in the end! Perfect.

The run was fairly warm with the sun beating down and quite windy along the seafront. I kept things easy paced and towards the end, when I felt like I was really plodding, I was pleased to see I was running 8.10min/miles. I felt like the effort level was right down there and thought I was running a lot more slow, so this is good news I suppose!

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(8.02mins/mile)

I got back and just laid on the drive and my parents brought me a glass of water, bless them.

IMG_0321 I felt quite windswept and salty. Surprisingly during the run I wasn’t that thirsty but afterwards I was definitely needing hydration. My legs felt good, no niggles or issues. Just general fatigue! I showered and got myself a smoothie (again). Similar to last weekend but this time I added coconut water and yogurt. Yum!

My parents and I then headed out to enjoy the nice weather again by taking all the dogs (Lexie, Dylan, Sam and Alfie) to Stokes Bay, which is a lovely beach area with lots of fields and doggie-friendly areas.

IMG_0342It was actually part of the route I ran in the morning (those stones were fairly annoying I can tell you!) and it was a dog-walking route we used to do when my sister and I were little. We worked out it was 19 years ago since we’d been back together. Mad!

It was very windy though. Far more windy than during my run.

IMG_0334I also noticed several water fountains along the front which I hadn’t seen during the run. Perfect for future runs, meaning I won’t have to carry a bottle with me when it gets hotter and my runs get longer.

Then my parents lovingly stopped at a bakery for me to pick up a slice of red velvet cake (yes I know, I’m addicted to cake). Then I headed back home, ate lunch, enjoyed some ‘lovely’ house work, caught up with a friend on the phone, before finally collapsing on the sofa with Paddington to watch and cake to eat.

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Both the cake and Paddington were excellent. Feel good comforts in so many ways!

How was your weekend?

How do you enjoy the good weather?

Do you have a dog? Do you let them off their lead?

Paranoid, insecure runner alert

I won’t lie, I’m nervous about how comparatively little I’m running. I’m training for a marathon which is about nine and a half weeks away and I feel…calm.

(Apologies, this post is a bit of a brain dump!)

I don’t feel like my training is that difficult. OK I know the mega long runs haven’t happened yet but I can’t help feeling I’m cheating the system by not feeling exhausted all the time or sick with fear for the upcoming long runs. Everything is just kind of ticking along without issue (OK now I’m really tempting fate). I’m not saying that I should feel awful or exhausted, but I just don’t feel like I’m training for a marathon.

What I am finding is still having the same enthusiasm for my gym visits. So far I’m keeping my heart rate up by jumping on the cross-trainer for a three minute burst, then running back to do my strength routines, repeating that three times and then doing some focused single-leg and core strength work. All in all totalling an hour and getting a good sweaty workout. Now I’m wondering if I should lessen the gym visits – or at least condense them into something more efficient (i.e. no more cross-trainer and superfluous strength moves), and run a bit more.

This is dangerous territory.

Currently I do three or four gym sessions a week (one of those is either entirely steady state cardio on the rowing machine, or 30 minutes on the rowing machine and 30 minutes strength). I’m considering changing this to two full strength routines (hitting all the strength moves that I think are a priority to maintain injury-free running) and four running sessions. So dropping the rowing and making the strength training just about the strength.

But I don’t know if this is sensible. Running four times? I need my long run, I like parkrun for a short social speed session and I really like my hill session (not at the time mind you!) – do I need anything else in terms of running??

And if I run four times, where do I place my runs and gym visits? Here’s what I was considering:

  • Monday:  Strength training
  • Tuesday:  Recovery run/short hill session?
  • Wednesday:  Off
  • Thursday:  Medium length tempo/hilly run?
  • Friday:  Strength training
  • Saturday:  parkrun
  • Sunday:  Long run

As you can see the runs and strength training might not complement each other at all. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated – I’m just a bit confused right now. It doesn’t help having everyone around me suffering (enjoying?) marathon fever right now and talking about their training!

While we’re on the subject of running, I ran last night and it was a brilliant run. The weather is fantastic so the guns were out!

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Pre-run selfie in the bathrooms because I’m weird

I didn’t fancy doing my usual 10k speedy hilly run as I felt an immense amount of pressure (from myself) to maintain my trend of running this same route consistently faster each week. I decided instead to do a longer run, but more of a relaxed tempo than an aggressive speedy run. I ran a one mile warm-up to get my legs going, then did the usual 10k route, then enjoyed a two mile cool down. Interestingly it didn’t feel like nine miles as I had split it up in my mind exactly as that: warm-up, 10k, cool down. It was a great longer hill run.

(7.38mins/mile average)

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I removed my gloves on the second mile (my route loops back a lot because the amazingly beasty hill sits right next to my office) and threw them off the path. My faith in humanity was boosted when I finished the run and went back to retrieve them to find them still there.

IMG_0283 To be fair though they don’t look like anything you’d want really

Annoyingly though I had slightly misjudged the distance and had to run a few loops round my office car park. Luckily most people had gone home…I say most. One man looked at me like I was mental as he headed to his car. I looked meaningfully at my watch a few times though to sort of demonstrate what I was doing (though this was probably lost on him…non-runner!).

IMG_0285 Post-run selfie – feeling very happy

Annnnd my mind goes back to my training…Do I just run three times a week and make the third run a hilly longer run?? Keep my rowing??

Nothing like being a paranoid, insecure runner surrounded by other runners doing so many different things!

Any tips to give?

What do you think is important in marathon training?

What strength workouts do you do, if you do any?

Probably jinxing it now – marathon training

Pretty much the entire (running) world and his friend are tapering or just about to taper for impending marathons. It seems everyone is training for London, Brighton or Edinburgh to name but a few.

While I’m sad that I’m not in that gang, I know that deferring London until next year was still the right decision. I couldn’t do yet another marathon on minimum training and maximum stress. I am however still training for a marathon at the moment. I’m just a couple of months behind the main pack.

The Liverpool marathon is mid-June, so I’m currently about 10 weeks away. I’m taking nothing for granted though and know only too keenly that injury could strike me down like a bolt of lightning at any point. Not to sound too depressing but being realistic is far better for me than being blissfully optimistic and then being disappointed. I also think that having this arguably pessimistic approach means I can try and not make silly mistakes (notice I said “try” there).

Running

My long run is up to 13 miles and my next run is 14 miles. I’ve pretty much just been gently crawling up the mileage like this – though some runs I’ll do twice to allow my body to adjust before ramping it up again. The only run I’m increasing is the long run, whereas previously I’ve just thrown in miles all over the place, which doesn’t seem to work for me. I also have the Southampton half marathon planned for the end of April, which (all things being good) I will aim to race.

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In a regular week, I do a hill session (usually just over 10k), a parkrun which I try and put some speed in my legs and then a long run which I’m really trying to slow down and just get the time on my feet. At this point in my long runs this is more important than ever.

Strength training

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Ahh that little gem I’ve previously been missing in my life. This I would say is almost as important as my running. For me the two have to go hand-in-hand for now. I feel so much stronger. Who knows if this is essential for everyone and whether it’s essential to do for all the time you’re training. All I know is my running feels stronger, I have no injuries and no niggles.

My Go To Moves

Cross-training

I try and do one session a week of cross-training. This is steady-state cardio and it’s normally the day after my hilly run so it’s nice to shake the legs out a bit and not put a huge amount of effort in. I keep my heart rate fairly low to replicate a recovery jog.

Rower workout selfieIt’s usually 45 minutes on the rowing machine listening to MarathonTalk. I’d say this workout is probably more for my sanity than anything. What I mean by that is because I’m only running three times a week I worry that I’m not doing ‘enough’ endurance-style cardio. Who knows if this helps but it does make my legs feel fresher and I enjoy it!

Nutrition

Getting Hello Fresh meals (food/recipe delivery service) helps a lot. I’m a vegetable and salad lover to my core and while this is a great source of nutrients and vital vitamins…it may not be the best way to keep me fuelled for my long runs and my gym visits.

IMG_0201 Chicken Shawarma (spiced chicken with lentils and roasted vegetables)

With Hello Fresh my meals are far more varied and they’re all a good balance of protein, carbs and fat. It’s no secret that I don’t love carbs too much…pasta, rice and bread are not things that make me go “mmm”, but making meals with mash potato or roasted new potatoes are rocking my life right now – as well as my usual well-loved sweet potato. Don’t fear the spud! 😉

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Teriyaki beef with sweet potato chips

And I’m eating more red meat and this ensures my iron levels are tip top. I can satisfy my salad need at lunch, but dinner is where the big guns come out ready for my next early morning gym session or run.

And cake. Lots of cake.

Added extras

Sleep is never usually an issue with me. I like to go to bed early and find after reading my book for a bit I fall asleep very easily. I get up stupidly early (5am if I’m going to the gym, 6am otherwise) so the early nights help. As long as I get seven hours I feel great. As a childless person this is quite easy to do I know (don’t hurt me, parents out there!!).

My standing desk at work helps reduce the amount of time I spend sitting to around 3-4 hours a day (2 hours worth of commuting, lunch, and sofa time in evening). My legs feel so much better, my hip flexors no where near as tight and just generally I feel better (read this BBC article for more information on the health benefits).

Foam rolling after my runs seems to help loosen up my tight muscles. It’s so easy to do while watching TV in the evening that I can’t not do it without feeling guilty.

Same goes for wearing my compression socks after a run. When I do my hilly 10k on a Wednesday evening the compression socks go on straight away after I shower and I usually sleep in them (yes I know, what a sexy beast I am). And I wake up with new calves, it’s fabulous.

Having said all this, I’m pretty sure I’ll now get injured 😉 #sodslaw

What are your tried and tested methods of injury prevention?

What are your top priorities during marathon training?

How long do you stay sat down each day?