Christmas and all that jazz

Ah what a shame it’s all over! Christmas is done and dusted.

I had a fantastic festive time, despite only getting the bank holiday days off (my own choice, granted). But otherwise it was brilliant. I spent it with my family, Kyle and Kyle’s family and it was honestly so lovely.

We all spent Christmas Eve altogether and it just made me feel all the warm and fuzzies. I’m a very family-centred person (how could I still live at home being the age I am if I didn’t get on with my parents so well??) so it’s important to me that Kyle gets on with my family and I get on adore his family, and the fact that they all get on together is just the cherry on top.

And of course over the Christmas period, I enjoyed so much good food… Christmas dinners, buffet fodder, chocolate (damn those chocolate sprouts from Fat Face were incredible), cheese (so much cheese) and everything between.

Kyle and I had a fantastic Christmas party with work – about one of the only times I drink and get a bit merry.

Meaning our fry up the next day at the local café Breezes in Hill Head was SO necessary.

And then we saw Star Wars (we enjoyed it but there are a few niggles). A perfect day off!

Christmas Day itself was lovely. Kyle and I headed to Christmas parkrun. I’ll do a more thorough post on my knee, but it felt OK beforehand so I thought I’d risk it as I so wanted to do the Christmas Day parkrun with Kyle.

We dressed as festively as we could be bothered and went to Lee-On-Solent parkrun rather than my usual Netley purely because it’s literally 5 minutes down the road whereas Netley is over 30 minutes away. Time is precious of Christmas Day, especially when the families are waiting for us!

We took the run quite easy. My knee is still not perfect but it didn’t hurt. My time was 25L50. Kyle forgot his barcode which pained my soul SO MUCH. He wouldn’t get his Christmas Day challenge! He’s also only two away from his 50…how frustrating!

Then we quickly headed back to my house to spend Christmas morning with my family. We opened presents, had Buck’s Fizz and it was lovely. Then Kyle headed back to his family and I cracked on to help my dad with the cooking, something we both really enjoy.

We had the usual roast turkey and all the trimmings which is just so good.

My one weird request is broad beans – I adore them

And then enjoyed a lovely post-food family walk before I headed off to Kyle’s to spend the rest of the day there. We played lots of games, watched Gavin and Stacey (BRILLIANT, fingers crossed for Series 4!) and ate a lot of chocolate and leftovers. Lovely 🙂

Boxing Day we went to Kyle’s dad’s house and I ate FAR too much cheese. Camembert, brie, goat’s cheese, stilton, cheddar… oh god I was pretty much 80% cheese afterwards. Loved it though.

Then I was back to work which royally sucked. But it was nice and quiet (although very dull) so it wasn’t too bad.

Unfortunately I did not do New Year’s Day double parkrun. I wanted to, don’t get me wrong, but it was the most sensible thing to do. My knee has good days and bad days. The good days are definitely outweighing the bad days but it’s just not ready to do two 5ks back to back.

Sure I could have done one but in the end we decided actually we’d just prefer a lie-in and laze about a bit – something we rarely do when I’m fully into my running. While it has been very sad not running, it has been nice enjoying these lazy weekends. We did however go to the gym instead. Not for any reason other than get a good sweat on and then justifiably laze about more 😉

And now it’s back to the grind, back to business and hopefully on to a stronger, healthier 2020. Running, I will be back!

How did you spend Christmas?

What’s your favourite Christmas food?

Did you do any festive parkruns?

Winchester parkrun and 15 miles – restraint and control

This weekend was a weekend of two halves I feel, weather-wise. Saturday was beautiful and then Sunday… ehhh less so.

On Saturday morning Kyle and I headed to Winchester to meet up with the lovely Emma. We’ve become good friends since I met her when I went to New York last year.

She’s also going to Chicago and doing the marathon this year. So we headed to do Winchester parkrun with her and then have some brunch. Happily parkrun was actually on this time as the last time we tried to do this it was cancelled.

It was a beautifully sunny day. I’ve done Winchester parkrun before, but at the end of running there from Hedge End with a group of my running club and we managed 18 miles in the end. So I wasn’t quite as fresh!

The course is a two lapper, which is always good, and mostly on grass. It’s flat and scenic and the loops not too sharp – if you were aiming for a good time it’s a good course to go for.

As I was planning a long run the next day I wasn’t aiming for anything more than a gentle plod. I haven’t run twice in a row for many weeks now, but as I was feeling so much better and my runs were going well I decided it was time to get back into my usual routine.

We saw Emma, listened to the run briefing (which was so hard to hear over the crowd of people and the woman just using her voice) and then headed to the start.

Kyle, not being quite as fragile as me right now, decided to go a bit faster so headed closer to the front. As we started I remember just how much I enjoyed parkruns when I wasn’t blasting out for a time. I mean it’s the story of my running life to be honest, anything short and fast is just not my thing.

It was really confident boosting though to realise that running around 8 minute miles felt like a breeze. My breathing was easy, I felt strong in my legs and like I could run for miles. As much as I was tempted to speed up significantly at the end (which I’m sure would not have felt easy or quite as enjoyable!) I managed to just sail through to the finish, unbothered by anyone zooming past me in a sprint finish. Control, Anna, CONTROL.

Kyle managed just over 21 minutes (holding himself back a little as he was conscious of his own long run the next day) and I got 23:30. Then we headed for brunch at Josie’s.

Kyle and I have been to Josie’s in Bishop Waltham before but not this one. It was a 20 minute wait for a table, which was fine. It just showed how popular it was! My stomach definitely kicked into gear though watching all the food coming out.

I managed to avoid the temptation of a fry-up and ordered mushrooms, egg and feta on toast instead. I’m glad I went for a change because this was so tasty! And super filling, surprisingly.

I mean it did also help that I shared a stack of maple pancakes with egg, sausage and bacon with Kyle as well. Details, details.

The pancakes here are super sweet, thick and incredible tasty. I’m not personally a huge pancake fan but sharing a portion hit the spot (I can only share food if I know I have more than enough!).

After having a lovely catch up with Emma we parted ways.

The next morning Kyle and I were up at 8.30am to head out for a long run. My plan was to run 15 miles and Kyle was to run 12. I was fully prepared to run less miles though if things felt off. I’m being suuuuuper cautious. We walked Alfie first and I started feeling nervous.

I always feel so nervous now before running. It’s ridiculous I know, but the memory of the injury and the fear of it coming back definitely haunts my running at the moment. But I needn’t have worried because as soon as I started running I felt it all slot into place and I was feeling good.

It was tipping it down though so we were wet pretty much from the get out. To be honest, I didn’t really mind though. It was fairly warm and it kept us nice and cool. The only annoying moments were if you stepped in a big puddle and soaked your trainer and my pony tail sticking to my back. But otherwise it was a lovely pleasant run. We did feel like quite the super heroes running with people looking at us like we were mad.

We passed a couple of other runners and swapped smug knowing nods – we are no fair weather runners. We are warriors.

We got to eight miles, where Kyle was to head back, making up his 12 miles, and I was to head onwards further to get my 15 miles. We stopped briefly for a quick photo and I waved goodbye and popped my podcast in.

A jokey photo Kyle took of me running off

As much as I love running with Kyle I do really enjoy running on my own. Just managing my pace however I fancy, zoning out and listening to a podcast. I will never get sick of it. I just love it so much.

The rain came and went a bit and I found myself getting stronger as the run carried on. There was an annoying long road that I ran down where cars hurtled through puddles, splashing me time and time again, but really I was so wet by then it didn’t matter.

My hamstring did niggle a bit towards the end, but manageably so, so nothing to worry about. I felt like this run was a lot more controlled and not quite as tough as the week’s before 15 miles. I sensibly didn’t blast the final miles which helped! So when I finished I didn’t feel quite as drained or broken.

The hot shower at home was so good. And the hot porridge and cup of tea went down a treat. Some things will never get old for me. Long running, porridge, tea… it just makes me a very content Anna!

So three weeks until Chicago now. I feel good… I mean of course I wish I had a few more week’s training under my Flipbelt and I hope the hamstring niggle eventually goes away completely but beggars can’t be choosers.

If I’m sensible in the lead-up and sensible on the day, I should be OK (TOUCH WOOD!!). I have no plans to blast the run or push myself too hard. I have nothing to gain from that. I want to be running after Chicago too and I don’t want to reignite any issues. I just want to gently and quietly tick this marathon off and then continue to run without issue afterwards. That to me sounds like perfection.

Do you enjoy running in the rain?

What’s your favourite pancake topper?

London trip and Burgess parkrun

This weekend was a lovely long one.

Kyle and I left work on Friday after lunch and walked to the train station to head to London. We had an AirBnb booked so after arriving at Waterloo Station we headed there. Not to state the obvious but it was a pretty hot one! Walking and using the tube was hardwork.

After settling into our accommodation we headed to London Bridge to go up The Shard.

Neither of us had done this before so it was exciting to go up. Though I have to say, the number of queues before you get up there is a little ridiculous: there’s a queue to get inside, then a queue to get your ticket, then a queue to have your items checked, then a queue to have a photo taken (which is mandatory and later you have to queue to view and then pay for if you actually want it), then a queue to get into the elevator before FINALLY arriving on the viewing floor. Jeeze. But once you’re up there it’s pretty spectacular. We had a lovely clear day so got a great view.

We avoided the expensive ice cream (£3 per scoop!) and cocktails at the bar (£13.50!) – definitely not in Portsmouth anymore eh. And then we headed back to the AirBnb to get ready for dinner.

We were going to the Chelsea branch of the Marco Pierre White steakhouse. We glammed up and got an Uber there (who was super friendly and even recommended us the same restaurant we had booked for brunch to the next day – great minds!).

The restaurant was super posh – definitely not something we’re used to 😉

We both had Whiskey Mac cocktails while we perused the menu. I drank mine trying to convince myself I do in fact like whiskey (I don’t, unless large amounts of the ice has melted into it). For starters we had the chicken parfait, then I had the duck leg salad and Kyle had steak, and for pudding we both had sticky toffee pudding.

It was very tasty, but quite small portions. I imagine for “normal” people this would be fine but I’m a greedy large appetited person.

We had grand ambitions of going to a pub and having a few more drinks, but reality set in and we realised buying a few snacks from a corner shop and going back to the AirBnb to watch some Good Place was actually better. We’re simple souls.

The next morning we walked to Burgess parkrun (unsurprisingly in Burgess Park). It was so hot. It was a two mile walk so we were nice and toasty when we got there.

While we were milling around I heard a man talking to two others about his parkrun Alphabet Challenge progress. He mentioned he was going to York very soon and then in a couple of week he was off somewhere in Poland for the Z,

Being the nosy person I am, I interjected and asked which parkrun in Poland. I asked because recently my Z for Zary had been removed from counting as a Z in the challenge. I only found this out fairly recently when I checked on my Bingo Challenge progress. Yep, no more Zary in the Z list. After asking around I found out it’s because the Z in Zary is actually not technically a Z in the Polish/Russian language (it has a special dot above it, meaning it means something else).

I mean, of course I was a bit frustrated when I found this out – I went all that way! But actually I really only have myself to blame for this mistake being the non-Polish speaking ignorant English girl… I don’t regret going to Zary of course as I loved going and it was a great adventure for Kyle and I. It also just means I need to go back to Poland to go to the actual real Z parkrun there (without the little dot above it), Zielona Góra. Watch this space…

But anyway, the man couldn’t remember which one he was going to but said his friends had been thorough in their organising. Well, good to luck him!

Burgess parkrun was a beautiful course which ran through the park, next to the large pond (small lake?) and back round again.

It was lovely and flat, asides from a couple of very brief inclines. And the marshals were lovely and enthuasiastic cheering us along.

My hamstring niggled a little but nothing major. I kept my pace controlled. I find it very hard though during parkrun because as you get to the end people are more enthusiastic in their cheering (“come on, sprint finish!”) and as tempting as that is, it’s not ideal when you’re trying to be sensible.

And it’s hard when people suddenly surge past you… Of course I did speed up a bit, but I tried so hard not to get too carried away in the moment. My time was 24:26.

At the end they had bananas and free gels to try (I declined both, far too hot). Then we headed quickly back to the AirBnb to get showered and head to our brunch in Covent Garden, The Big Easy.

Now BBQ food at 11am might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea but for me this was the absolute dream. It was called the Boozy Brunch and the one we selected (The Big Pig Gig) was an all you can eat BBQ food and unlimited drink. We’re not huge drinkers (and it was 11am…) so we opted for Diet Cokes (unlike the table behind us who were at least three pints throughout the meal haha).

I felt a bit bad because on our second Diet Coke I said to the waitress quite firmly (or so Kyle tells me…) not to bring straws with our fresh glasses. The waitress looked a bit affronted told me actually they were eco-friendly straws… Whoops that’s me told!

Anyway the food itself was so good. We had pulled pork, chicken legs, pork ribs, cornbread, coleslaw, BBQ beans and chips.

Once we got through our first ’round’ the waitress was there straight away asking what bits we’d like again, or just a bit of everything again? Well… just a bit of everything please!

Kyle was a big fan of the cornbread, I loved the ribs and neither of us touched the chips (why waste valuable stomach space!). But everything was delicious. On finishing most of the second round the waitress came back. We were both fairly full but being greedy I asked for a couple more ribs. You know, just because.

THEN I was stuffed. Ooooooof!

I had previously had ideas of going to Doughnut Time afterwards but noooo way would this be happening now. Also, the thought of giant sickly doughnuts really was not appealing in the heat.

We then rolled walked back to Waterloo and headed back home. Kyle played on his iPad while I read my newly acquired book, Ready Player One.

A trip well spent!

How was your weekend?

Do you like alcohol with a brunch?

Have you been up The Shard?

Bushy parkrun – finally!

Waaay back in like February when I went to the Marathon Talk Run Camp in the Peak District, my friend Fiona mentioned that she wanted to celebrate her birthday in true runner style: going to Bushy parkrun.

I bunch of us were going to meet-up, do the parkrun and enjoy some brunch. Sounded perfect! I’ve actually never done this parkrun and as someone who loves parkrun and everything is stands for, this is a bit mental. Bushy parkrun is the FIRST ever parkrun (in 2004 with 13 runners!). It’s about 1.5 hours away from where I live and though I could of course head up early on a Saturday morning, it was never in my diary to do because I wanted to do it with other people. Kyle and I could have gone just ourselves but we seem to have something planned every weekend at the moment. So this meet-up was the perfect excuse.

Kyle and I decided to stay in an Airbnb on Friday night so we wouldn’t have to get up super early Saturday morning and be stressed. Plus we do love an Airbnb trip. We drove up after work on Friday evening and stopped en route at a delightful pub called the Hen and Chicken for a carvery.

The carvery was a bit more posh than your standard Toby Carvery. Everything looked a bit more home-made rather than mass produced (don’t get me wrong though, I do love a Toby carvery). The gravy for instance was SO tasty and thick. I had roast turkey and gammon (odd combo I know), with creamed leeks, carrots, roast potatoes, red cabbage, stuffing.

It was really good and set us up nicely for the rest of the journey to Hampton for our Airbnb. The Airbnb was nice and we had a lovely evening watching Netflix and munching on those delicious new M&M chocolate bars (so fricking good).

The next morning we were up by 7.30am and heading out the door to walk the two miles to the start. It was a really easy walk, albeit windy. In an ideal world we would have run there but I wanted to be cautious about my hamstring. I haven’t really been consistently running and haven’t gone over three miles yet. I’d be lucky to manage this parkrun let alone anything extra!

Bushy Park itself was so pretty. Huge trees, wide open green spaces and so many deer. I think Kyle got sick of me pointing out different ones… look one with antlers! And then we reached the road where cars were streaming in towards the car park. I was glad we’d chosen to walk. Apparently car park is full even before 8.30am!

We bumped straight into Fiona, her daughter Nikki and her friends, and then John. We sheltered for a little bit under one of the sheds and then saw the other Marathon Talk friends approach. How easy to meet everyone! For John this was easy peasy as this was his local parkrun, but for others like Fiona and Vicki it was more of a journey (Staffordshire and Wiltshire).

The gang

We chatted and caught up briefly before heading to the main start area. It was nice and organised, despite the masses of people milling about.

We headed to the first timer brief and listened as the marshal explained the course and welcomed any tourists. It was a bit annoying because as the marshal continued to explain and give us some hints and recommendations for the course a woman next to me started loudly chatting to her friend. If you don’t want to listen that’s fine, but take yourself away and start your conversation elsewhere! It was really distracting and very rude.

Anyway, after listening we headed to the lonnnnnnnnng line-up to get going. Because the front line-up is so wide you feel very close to the front!

I wasn’t intending on blasting any sort of time – I would be lucky to finish at all, considering my DNF from last week. So I edged further into the main body.

John was just behind me

Kyle moved a bit closer to the front as he wanted to see what time he could do. I was happy to run solo, less pressure and I could concentrate on my hamstring.

After a solid introduction from the race director (using a microphone because of the large audience!) we were off.

The course was mainly on compacted dirt and a little bit of grass – so very easy to run on. Also it was super flat and wide, so despite there being so many people running it was never congested or crowded (in the area I was running anyway). You didn’t feel alone at any point though. There were always runners near you, which was quite nice.

John caught up with me and we remained running next to each other chatting. He’s semi-injured too (after doing the epic Race to the Stones) so neither of us were down for pushing the pace. Instead we took our time and caught up. It’s a shame we don’t see each other more often but it’s always nice when we do.

My hamstring was niggling a bit but it wasn’t as bad as the week before so I remained running and talking with John to keep my mind off it.

I finished in 25:32 and joined the very organised funnel – which sort of blew my mind how they did this. There were two different funnels and I couldn’t work out how they managed to work out the barcodes or positions.

We then headed quickly to the Pheasantry Cafe for brunch. Luckily two of the chaps were super speedy (Stuart and Marcin) they got us a table and we were able to order before the rush.

I went for avaocado on toast with poached eggs which was very hipster of me!

Unfortunately one of the egg yolks spurted all down my leg which was pretty grim. Egg yolk is super tricky to wipe up I tell you! But anyway it was very tasty. As was the delicious VEGAN chocolate cake Deni had made for Fiona’s birthday as well.

It was so lovely catching up with everyone – epsecially Vicky and Stuart who had recently got married but due to my cancelled Edinburgh flight I wasn’t able to make.

Then we all parted ways and Kyle and I walked back to the Airbnb where my car was parked.

We saw more deer and managed to not get rained on – what a bonus.

So a very successful Bushy parkrun pilgramage. I’m so chuffed to have finally done it. Of course I’d love to have been a bit less injured but I’m happy regardless.

Have you ever done Bushy parkrun?

Where’s the furthest you’ve gone for a parkrun?

What’s your favourite thing on toast?

A failed parkrun but an epic burger

Coming back from injury is a tumultuous and emotional process (for me anyway).

You fill yourself huge amounts of hope and excitement. Yesss I can run. I can’t wait to jump ease back into training. Things start to feel very positive after so much negativity and darkness (perhaps an exaggeration, but you get the vibe).

I woke up on Saturday morning and straight away knew my hamstring was feeling pretty terrible. The plan was for Kyle and I to go to Netley as we hadn’t been in so long and I missed seeing people I used to regularly touch base with. I wanted to catch up with my friend Mike as well. Kyle wasn’t feeling particularly well but both of us, possibly unwisely, carried on anyway.

As we walked on over to the start area I knew deep down this wasn’t going to go well but I pushed that feeling aside and convinced myself a miracle would occur.

Of course a miracle did not occur. As soon as I started running it felt uncomfortable. Not quite as bad as pre-new physio but definitely not great. Ehhhh this was pants. I was glad to have no one running with me (Kyle was running solo – I didn’t want to hold him back again). I could spend my time focusing on how it felt and wondering what to do.

I was literally spiralling through so many thoughts… do I stop? Am I making it worse? Is it as bad as before? Should I push on through? And all the while I would have different people I knew overtake me as I increasingly got slower, and they’d say something along the lines of, “Either I’m running too fast or you’re running slowly!” with a chuckle.

And I don’t mind that people are overtaking me or that I’m running slowly but it just further compounded that I wasn’t running at my natural pace. I was running well over 9 minute miles. And of course there’s nothing wrong with that, but I felt I couldn’t run faster. Not because of fitness but because my injury was holding me back.

So in the end I stopped before the first mile. I found a point on the course I could quickly dash off from so few people would notice. I didn’t want someone to see and ask if I was OK. I just wanted to disappear. I was embarrassed, frustrated and angry. As I pulled away from the course I burst into tears. It was pathetic really but I just felt so frustrated and annoyed.

A lovely woman walking her dog asked if I was OK and it did feel ridiculous trying to explain what was wrong. In the end I just said I was OK and I rung my dad (who later told me having a phone call from me at 9:12 on a Saturday morning is never going to bode well…).

Kyle was still running so I just sobbed to my dad about how sad I was and how I felt panicked about Chicago and how I thought I was heading in the right direction…until now.

Eventually, after morosely walking around the cricket pitch away from the course, I headed back to the parkrun area. I didn’t want to cheer anyone on. I didn’t want to talk to anyone really. I felt embarrassed and I didn’t want to explain I was injured. I found Kyle and Mike, who’d just finished, and I explained how I’d pulled out and that I just wanted to go home. Mike understood, gave me a hug and then Kyle and I left.

Kyle was obviously lovely and we had a nice day ahead of us going to Bournemouth so I quickly cheered up. We got showered and sorted and then sat in the long traffic to get to Monty’s Burger Lounge to meet up with some of Kyle’s friends.

We’ve been to this restaurant before (over a year ago!) and we loved it. I’d recently won a burger from them as well through Instagram (they ran a competition and I won it) so it was the perfect place to meet with his friends.

I gave Kyle the free burger as I’m not a huge burger fan. The burger is called The Sinner and contains chicken nuggets, hasbrowns (which I don’t like), a 12oz beef patty, pulled pork sauce and American cheese. So pretty epic.

I, of course, had two lots of BBQ chicken wings. I adore their wings. So juicy and tasty. Probably some of my BBQ flavoured favourite wings (buffalo are still my all-time favourite).

And I also had a portion of mozzarella bites (coated in cheesy Dorita crisps!).

We had a lovely time eating and chatting away to Kyle’s friends. It massively helped take my mind off of my failed run. There are so many more important things in life and having lovely people to spend your time with helps puts things into perspective 🙂

But my hamstring thankfully feels a bit better and I hope to continue trying to run. I’m seeing my new physio again this week so FINGERS CROSSED.

Have you ever got upset about a failed run?

Have you ever had a parkrun DNF?

What’s your preference: Buffalo or BBQ wings? I’m also partial to vegan wings too – either cauliflower or tempeh, both are nice!