Things I’m loving lately – September

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while! I will recap my latest marathon soon, but for now here are some things I’ve been loving recently.

Baking: You know it’s the end of summer in the UK when The Great British Bake Off starts. I love this programme but honestly it’s such a hard time for me. I spend the entire Tuesday evening just wanting cake. Happily though at work we’re doing a Bake Off Sweepstake (a Bakestake if you like). A group of us have gotten together and we’ve been assigned a baker each. When that baker gets kicked off the person assigned has to bring in baked goods before the next episode. I had Imelda so I had to bake first.Now you may or may not know (if you’ve read this blog a long time you will know) that I’m an appalling baker having had many baking fails. So I needed to find a simple fool-proof (Anna/idiot-proof) recipe. I also wanted something that was a tiny bit more exciting than my usual go-to of brownies or simple cookies.

I did a bit of Googling and found an amazing looking creation… Jammie Dodger Blondies! Though I’m not a huge biscuit fan, I do love Jammie Dodgers and I love white chocolate, both key ingredients to this. And amazingly the recipe sounded so simple (the recipe I used is THIS one).

Jammie Dodger Blondies!

Ingredients

  • 200g Butter
  • 300g Golden caster sugar
  • 150g White chocolate chips/chunks
  • 3 med. eggs
  • 1tsp Vanilla extract
  • 225g Plain flour
  • A pack of mini Jammie Dodger biscuits (I found these worked really nicely for smaller pieces)
  • 6tbsp Strawberry Jam

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter with the sugar over a low heat in a saucepan until melted, then remove from heat.
  2. Add the white chocolate and stir so it melts. Leave to cool for 5 minutes (IMPORTANT).
  3. Add the eggs to the mixture and whisk as you go so you don’t cook the eggs into scrambled egg!
  4. Add the vanilla extract, flour and then mix thoroughly.
  5. Pour into 12″ x 9″ tray baking tin.
  6. Place Jammie Dodgies on top of the mixture and swirl spoonfuls of jam around them (I microwaved the jam for 10 seconds to soften it up a bit).
  7. Bake for 30 minutes at 160C Fan/180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.

Nothing went wrong. I followed the recipe. I was successful! Hurrah! Hallelujah! Praise be! And even more amazingly, people actually seemed to enjoy them and they were all gone by the end of the day. Awesome.

I can now watch Bake Off in peace without worrying about having to bake anything… while enjoying a different bake each week from someone else.Table tennis: We have a table tennis table in our office (yes I do work in a very cool place) and we have a few leagues going on so we’ve been playing a fair bit. I’m terrible. Truly terrible but I really enjoy playing it. So much so I even managed to persuade Kyle to go to a restaurant (The Southsea Village) that had a table tennis table so we could play after eating (to be fair it didn’t take much persuading, he’s as much an addict as I am though significantly more skilled).It’s so much fun to play at lunch. I mean, I should probably play more to get better but I enjoy playing regardless of my skill level so that’s something. It creates good moral and lightheartedness in the office which I think can only be a good thing.

Lush shampoo bar: I wouldn’t say I’m an eco-warrior by any stretch of the imagination but I do try and be mindful of the products I buy, the waste I create and recycle as much as possible. With that in mind, I saw that you could buy shampoo BARS rather than shampoo in bottles. Obviously I have quite long hair and do a lot of running and gym so washing my hair is something I do quite regularly (annoyingly regularly). I found that these shampoo bars not only last a lot longer than shampoo in the bottle (like 80 washes apparently) but obviously don’t require a plastic bottle.

I decided to give it a go. It was less than a tenner and my hair isn’t that sensitive (if that’s the right word) to certain products so I couldn’t see it being a total disaster.  I went for the Montalbano one, which is lemony with rosemary. It smells DIVINE. It doesn’t take much to get a lather going. I put it under the shower then rub it in my hands and then rub a bit on the ends of my hair and then carry on lathering it in without the bar. It works absolutely fine and my hair is super soft and shiny after. I’d fully recommend. Saving money and the environment. Happy days! I have a sandwich bag that I keep it in (I know I can buy a little tub but £££) and then pop it in my make-up bag for the gym. It works really well.

What products have you been enjoying recently?

Do you play any other sports?

Have you been inspired to bake because of Bake Off?

Instagram and that time I over-dosed on chicken wings

I was going to do a “What I’m loving lately” style post but I ended up waffling too much about two things so let’s just go with that…

Instagram: Say what you like about Instagram and why people use it, I love it. I enjoy using it, I enjoy posting and I enjoy following other people. You do need a degree of “take this with a pinch of salt” perspective of course because people generally post their best selves and it’s a very glossy world vision (as with all social media). You have to be careful not to think too deeply or worry too much about the things you see. Comparison is the thief of joy, and there are ALWAYS going to be people running faster than you, looking more put-together than you, have more money than you, go to more cool places, holidays, restaurants, get more free stuff than you. But as long as you can accept that and not let it affect your own self-worth and value, it’s good fun.I love a good scroll and I enjoy posting gym selfies and running updates on there. It’s fluff and nonsense and, in reality, no one cares more than you do about your own posts, but I enjoy the micro blogging element of it.

And after than preamble…I’ve started another Instagram account on top of my usual @AnnaTheAppleBlog one. This one is a food-based Instagram account called @AnnaTheCake88. Yes yes I know 😉I wanted somewhere to document all the amazing food I’ve eaten and will go on to eat. But I didn’t want to muddy my purely fitness-focused account with food. So a new one was born. On this one I can follow all different kinds of local restaurants (or aspirational restaurants I’d love to go to) and be inspired to visit new places to try new foods. I can really focus in on food-related stuff, which, as you probably know, I love doing.

A twing thing: Speaking of food…I’ve been enjoying lots of good food recently. I never realised how good a place Southsea was for food. It’s just down the road from work which makes it a perfect place to drop into. With the weather recently being so nice it’s a great place to walk along the beech, have a drink and enjoy some good food.It kind of reminds me of Brighton, but obviously a lot smaller and not as popular. It has so many quirky restaurants – and most of them have vegan options or some even have entire vegan separate menus. I obviously love my meat but I don’t mind trying a bit of a vegan food once in a while as a change!

I went to Two Doors Down recently with Kyle on a Wednesday evening as it was “Twings” Night. All you can eat tacos and wings for £13. I was ALL over this. I love, love, love chicken wings so this was right up my street. We’d been to the restaurant before and had had a really nice meal there so we knew we were in for a treat. The waiter informed us that to stop people over-ordering and wasting food you had to finish the plate you were on before ordering more, which made complete sense. I’m almost certain they looked at me and thought “ha, we’ll make our money on this one”. Little did they know…

There were lots of different wing flavours (buffalo, Korean BBQ, honey and mustard, honey and sriracha, etc.) and you could choose between cauliflower “wings” and regular chicken wings. As much as I would have enjoyed trying the cauliflower ones I decided to focus on chicken because it actually took a while each time to order another plate as they were quite busy and we only had our table till 8pm. PRIORITIES PEOPLE. This also meant that I decided to not get any tacos either. The tacos had different flavours too – and jack fruit versions not just different meats.The wings were good. So good. I decided early on to avoid the baffalo wings… they were the first eight that I had and it really did a number on my tongue and mouth with the heat. So I tried the Korean BBQ next. Still fairly spicy. As I was in it for the long game, I decided to move to and stick with honey and mustard.In the end I managed five plates of eight chicken wings… 40 chicken wings in total. I won’t lie, the last plate was a struggle and certainly the last two wings I probably didn’t enjoy that much but 40 sounds better than 38 😉 I realise this is the height of gluttony but I genuinely didn’t intend to eat as many as I did going into it. I just have quite an appetite!

It was a fun evening for sure. The next day I honestly wasn’t hungry until about 1pm. I don’t know how many calories I consumed but if each chicken wing was 80-100 calories (no idea if this is accurate but I did a quick Google) that would between 3,200-4,000 calories. Blimey. Let’s pretend I didn’t have chips with that too…

Do you like chicken wings?

Have you ever done a food challenge? I’m not sure I would. I like to enjoy my food rather than race through it or prove a point.

Do you use Instagram?

Yeovil parkrun – getting my Y

The parkrun Alphabet Challenge has genuinely been something I’ve loved doing. Like I’ve said many times before, ticking things off a list and “collecting” things is something I really enjoy (weird? Maybe. But I know I’m not alone in this). So I had three letters left… Y, I, and Z (X doesn’t currently exist). So it was time to crack on with getting Y.

There aren’t many Y’s about in the UK sadly. As much as I’d love to have gone all the way to the beautiful city of York to do it as everyone suggested, it was just a bit too far for a quick day-trip. I’m trying to not spend stupid money doing this (bearing in mind that I have a small trip to Poland to do soon to get Z…). Living in Southampton made York a slightly unrealistic quick day-trip option. Instead, I settled with going to Yeovil. This was still about two hours away so not exactly a quick trip and the very ‘lovely’ early morning leaving time of 6.30am.

Happily I didn’t have to go solo as Kyle joined me. I had previously warned him about my driving skills and navigational ability so it was no surprise to anyone when I missed a crucial turning and added 10 more miles to the journey making our ETA somewhat dangerously close to the start time. Remember, I never add contingency time. I live in Anna La La Land where everything is jolly and nothing goes wrong.We did actually arrive in OK timing (well, we got to the car park in good timing). There were marshals to direct us in to park which I’d never seen before at a parkrun. But I guess made sense as it was located at Montacute House, which was a National Trust location, and the parking was a bit all over the place.Anywho we parked, went to the loo (absolutely crucial for me and my tiny bladder) and walked to the starting area. It was right in front of the Montacute House and I started taking some photos as it was so pretty. Oneof the marshals gently told us perhaps we’d like to get ready rather than take photos and were we tourists? As we replied we heard “go!”. Blimey!! We were off already! We just hadn’t noticed the time fly by. We raced after the other runners, frantically starting our watches, and cracked on.Yeovil parkrun course is all on grass and the start is a bit of a free-for-all as you leg it off in a big group away from the house. Then it narrows up as you join a rough path, still on grass. There are a lot of sheep about so you do have to be mindful of them and the copious amounts of sheep poo everywhere. It was mostly out of the shade and as the sun was beating down already it proved to be quite a sweaty run.Kyle and I were able to overtake a fair number of people as we caught up with the pack and get ourselves into a comfortable position amongst the other runners. A herd of sheep ran across the path of the runners at one point which was quite amusing. And you had to watch your foot placings quite keenly because it was rough underneath, meaning ankles could turn quite easily. Basically it wasn’t a parkrun to switch off from and enjoy the views, you had to be aware of your surroundings.I felt like the first half dragged on and I felt quite unfit. But by mile two I got a second wind and found myself stretching on and starting to overtake more people as I gained speed. The course isn’t hilly but it’s fairly undulating, with little hills and dips, which gave for good downhill surges. There’s a final significant incline at the end and then it’s round the corner to the finish. I was happy to finish as second female with 22:42. Not too shabby!After quickly freshening up in the toilets (which were lovely by the way) and getting changed, we headed off for some breakfast. A friend at work had recommended the Cow and Apple in Yeovil itself so we headed there.We got a table outside and sat in the blazing sunshine sweating away. The food was good though. A good spot – and lots of people watching opportunities (there are some funny sorts out and about on a Saturday morning aren’t there!).From Yeovil we drove to Dorchester. It seemed silly to not make a day of it driving all that way and people had recommended Dorchester as a good place to mosey about. And it has a dinosaur museum! With my strange love of dinosaurs this seemed perfect. It was quite an amusing experience though. Clearly more geared towards children…though it was a fun way to spend an hour or so. It was quite interactive in places and we both made the mistake of “smelling a t-rex’s breath”. URGH. It was VILE. It was a good giggle tho.We grabbed a quick rocky road snack to share (just OK, not the best I’ve ever had) and then headed off for pit-stop number three, the Sculpture by the Lakes, just outside of the main area of Dorchester in Pallington Lakes. We weren’t really sure what to expect but it had lots of really good reviews and the weather seemed ideal.It was VERY posh. Like you could tell straight away it was a “nice” place. Located in the back-garden (I use this term VERY loosely) of the artist’s house was this incredible set-up of lakes with beautiful sculptures located in different spots around and a posh café (well restaurant really) to sit and enjoy food and drink at. We paid for two tickets (£10 each, not too bad considering you could stay all day and just enjoy the scenery and have a picnic if you fancied) and then wandered around the lake. It was beautiful and the sculptures were amazing. There were birds, words and sentences and fruit… it was very diverse but all impressive. There were a number of people just laying about in the sun or having a picnic but you could tell this was not a place for, as my dad says, the great unwashed! And children and dogs were strictly not allowed.We spent a good amount of time walking around and sitting by the water before deciding that the call for food might be coming as our earlier fry-up wore off. Our next stop was Bournemouth where I knew an amazing burger spot was and had wanted to excuse to try it out for ages. I’d been following Monty’s Lounge on Instagram for ages…oh the food porn! Kyle told the waitress I was a bit of an obsessed customer and she laughed – she also gave us some extra special burger sauce as well so hey it helps to be keen in these scenarios! We both ordered the same… chicken wings to start, a pulled pork topped burger with fries (I went for sweet potato) and a very tasty brownie with ice cream for pudding. A pretty damn tasty meal! I’m both sad and happy that this place is just that bit too far from me…

Then we headed home. I was planning a long run the next day and was already dreading it. I’d have to get up early to beat the heat and after an early morning on Saturday I was a bit miffed to lose another one. But if I laid in then I’d be running 15 miles (my planned run) in the heat at peak times. I walked Alfie when I got in and despaired at how cool it felt that evening. Why couldn’t it be like this tomorrow? As I walked around I actually found myself not feeling too tired… what if I just went out for a few miles tonight and subtracted them from my run the next day to make things easier?

 

Before I could change my mind, I dropped Alfie back off at home, got back into my running gear and headed out. Ok first mile felt…OK. Asides from the fact that I was super full and could feel brownie bouncing around the place, I felt energised and comfortable running.

In my head I planned three miles but as the run went on I just felt better and better. I decided to just go with the flow and see how far I could go. It was now about 9pm and the weather was SO nice. It reminded me of the runs I’ve had during autumn, that blissful time of cool weather running. Yes I did feel a little sick and a little like I might be revisiting my dinner, but otherwise it was a FANTASTIC run. I ran down the seafront and just thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was one of those runs where you could go forever. A run that reminded you why you loved running.As I got back towards my house I added another mile on, embracing my enthusiasm, and totalled 12 miles in the end. I was ecstatic!A solid run at a solid pace feeling amazing, with the bonus of not being sick. Hurrah!

Have you ever done a long run quite soon after a big meal?

Do you enjoy going round museums?

Do you like to do day-trips to visit different places?

 

Celebrating my birthday and not running

So I’ve taken a week off of running. After the Jersey Half (and, let’s be honest, a good number of weeks of beasting myself with races and speedwork) I needed a break from running.

Basically mentally and physically I was kind of done. Don’t get my wrong, I’m super pleased with everything I’ve achieved but I’m genuinely pooped. I could feel it happening the week before the half and the half just pushed me over the edge. My calf had begun to niggle as well – which is always a sign of me over-doing things, especially speedwork. I’ve come to realise that it really doesn’t matter what kind of strength training I do, my calves will always be my weak point and I’ll always get niggles there. Maybe I need to strengthen them up? Foam roll them more? Do more stretching? Who knows. But I’m pretty sure my calf has started to niggle because I’ve ramped up the speedwork quite a lot recently as well as the volume of my running. I never learn but there we go.

The calf is feeling a lot better though and mentally I feel a lot more chilled. At the same time I also changed gyms. I just randomly decided to do this on a whim. I saw a new PureGym had just opened literally 5 minutes from my work (though my old gym was only further down the road so really the distance isn’t a thing) and it was offering a cheaper rate. I like PureGym and because it’s all new and swanky I thought I might as well change. As much as I did like my old gym, it was old and the changing rooms were a bit grotty. There was also no air conditioning.

Anyway on Saturday morning I decided instead of parkrun (to be all sensible and keep the calf happily getting better) I went to a Les Mills spin class (“Sprint”). I’ve been to many spin classes but never a Les Mills one. And at this PureGym (North Harbour one in Portsolent) they have a “digital coach”. This means that instead of having a real person guiding you through, there was just a huge screen where you watched some Les Mills coaches giving the session. That sounds pants, I know. But actually it was brilliant. The coaches were really good. And the room was all dark which strangely made things easier – but harder? Like you could just absolutely beast it out but without worrying about people seeing you gurning. I don’t know, it worked for me! Better to have a virtual amazing coach than a sub-part bored real instructor in my opinion. It properly destroyed me though. I was a sweaty mess at the end. I think I’m a relatively fit person… I’ve run marathons and stuff. But jeeze that killed me.Then I headed quickly home to get showered and sorted to meet my uni friends for a fun birthday meal. My 30th is on Tuesday so they were down to help me celebrate. We went to one of my favourite restaurants in Southampton, Sadlers, which serves insane smoked and BBQ food. I’ve been a number of times and it’s always fairly epic.Since Jersey I’ve been craving nachos like crazy. What is wrong with me?? But I didn’t just want to order nachos (though they were renowed to be a large portion). Thankfully though my friends came to my aid and we ordered two portions for the table to share. Whew! So I was free to order my own meal of ribs. Unfortunately compared to previous times I’ve been it seems that portion sizes have changed. I mean, I know realistically I’m the only one who’d be miffed at this because I have a monster appetite but I only got two ribs. I went for the smaller portions of ribs but STILL. £15 for two ribs? You’re joking. And also, no cornbread despite it being on the menu? I’m disappointed. The ribs were good don’t get me wrong but the portion size was a bit lame.I realise for normal people this would probably be fine. But Kate went for the larger portion of ribs and got four. She paid £5 more… I just think that’s a bit lame really. I remember ordering ribs and having loads. Like I couldn’t possibly finish them. Anyway, when I saw the portion size I quickly ordered a side of wings. The wings were lush! The nachos were good too but there were blobs of pulled pork rather than a layering. So again, a bit lame.

Despite the food being somewhat underwhelming, the company was fabulous so really I didn’t mind at all. The food was tasty and we had a good time regardless. It was lovely to catch up and see them all (especially as there are now two gorgeous babies in the group as well – not that I’m a particularly baby person but as babies go, they’re alright ones).

Then we walked to Sprinkles down the road and had an immense pudding. I went for my usual Sticky Situation (lots of cookie dough, ice cream, chocolate and white chocolate). But ooof it was tough-going and I only managed HALF. What is even happening to me? Where has my monster appetite gone?!

It was just too much sweetness. But it was delicious. All in all a fantastic day. In July we’ll be going to Centre Parcs as a group to jointly celebrate all our 30th birthdays so that’ll be amazing.

Saturday evening I had a very chilled one (I was partly in a food coma if I’m honest) and watched the very strange film mother! I quite enjoyed it. Once I got on board that it was an allegory of the sixth day of creation from the Bible I found it a lot more engaging. But yeah, a weird one.

Sunday I had a nice lie-in and then took myself to another spin class (this time Spin RPM). If I thought the class the day before was hard I knew nothing. This was insane. I’ve never sweated so much in my life! And yet, as hard as it was, it was really good. Like I felt like I could properly push myself hard. My calf and everything felt fine so I could properly get into the workout and give it my all. I then did 30 minutes on the cross trainer at a light intensity. So though I didn’t get my beloved long run I did get a good sweat on and enjoyed a rather different workout.

Then I got home and ready super fast to head out for a joint celebration of Father’s Day and my birthday. My parents and I headed to The Pig in Brockenhurst. I booked this in April because it’s renowned of being super hard to get a table. We all kept remarking how lucky we were to be there on Father’s Day no less!

The Pig was AMAZING. Like the whole setting was beautiful. A very rustic and old antique style to it.The restaurant was located in a like a large conservatory type room which was just beautiful. Lots of plants, pretty paintings and rustic style furniture. And the service was so good. Very attentive, you felt well looked after.

We had mini starters before our regular starters (“Piggy Bites”) which were delicious. I had the Brock Eggs (eggs wrapped in shredded ham and bread crumbs), which tasted divine. And then for my actual starter I had the charcuterie board. Oh so tasty!!

For main I had The Pig’s signature dish, the tomahawk pork chop with a creamy sauce and a side of Isle of Wight tomatoes and basil. Literally HEAVEN. It was so tasty. But of course there was just enough room for pudding…because, why not?

I had the dark chocolate tart with toffee honeycomb ice cream. YES. A perfect way to end the meal. We all enjoyed our food and vowed definitely to come back at some point (for a special occasion, because it’s not cheap!).

A fabulous way to celebrate Father’s Day and my birthday. Despite not doing any running for the weekend, I had such a good couple of days!

How did you spend Father’s Day?

Do you like going to posh restaurants? The Pig didn’t feel super posh but it was definitely not Nando’s!

Have you ever done a Les Mills class?

Jersey parkrun

I’m so chuffed I can finally say I’ve done the Jersey parkrun! Since I found out the parkrun Alphabet Challenge was a ‘thing’ I’ve been trying to do different parkruns hitting all the letters (apart from X – there isn’t one yet). It’s silly but I find it really good fun.

There are so many parkruns all over the UK (and the world) so it gets you to different places, meeting new people and just having a laugh really. Over this year I’ve managed to tick off quite a few letters. I’m strangely very proud of myself.Anyway this weekend saw my friend Mike and I getting a flight from Southampton to Jersey so I could tick off ‘J’. Mike loves parkrun too but isn’t quite as mad as me with the Alphabet Challenge – though he’s now becoming more persuaded!

I took a half day Friday so we could fly Friday afternoon. The flight was super easy and fast. We also both only packed hand luggage which made things even cheaper and easier. The plane was tiny and barely half full. We quickly arrived in Jersey and found a huge T-rex which was amusing!It even moved and roared! I love dinosaurs (weird I know) so this made my day straight away. We got out of the tiny airport and walked straight onto the number 15 bus. The buses in jersey are fantastic. It’s £2 for wherever you’re going. Handily one was going literally just then to St. Helier where we were staying. Twenty minutes later we arrived at Liberation Station, the main bus station. Super easy even for me! To be fair, neither Mike or I are the most savvy of people so it was highly likely something was going to go wrong on our little holiday… fingers crossed eh.We got two rooms at the Avoca Guest House, which was about a ten minute walk from the station.It was tiny and old school British quaint but it did the job and the owners were lovely and friendly. It was also cheap! It included breakfast but as we would be parkrunning Saturday and then half marathoning Sunday we wouldn’t be partaking.Bless Mike, he offered to take the smaller of the two rooms where the bathroom was shared with one of the other rooms (how weird) and I got the bigger room with an en suite. I was very grateful. Especially as I do always need a wee during the night.

We ditched our bags and then headed for a walk to see the local area and to find some dinner. Unfortunately it seemed like the rest of Jersey also had this idea and most places were rammed. We tried a great looking little Mexican, La Hacienda, but it was fully booked. St. Helier is a small seaside town – very British but also felt a little bit French, which would make sense considering it’s proximity to the country. And the weather was beautiful. Sunny and warm!

Eventually we found a place called the Canteen and Bar which looked reasonable enough. It wouldn’t have been our first choice but by this point we were super hungry and tired. We shared some falafels and chicken “cakes” and I had chilli beef and cheese on nachos (not my usual but after seeing someone with nachos in the Mexican I was now craving them) and it was very tasty.For pudding we decided to drop into a crêperie that we’d spotted on our meanderings. Mike had salted caramel and I had Belgium milk and white chocolate with honeycomb toffee crunch ice cream. Absolutely heavenly! Every bite was like an explosion of ‘to die for’ taste. I’m not usually a pancake or crêpe fan but this was just divine.Then we parted to our little rooms ready for parkrun in the morning. Through the night I was intermittently woken up by thunder and lightning. It went on pretty much the entire night and we woke up to it still carrying on and heavily raining. Uh oh. I’d only packed summer clothes and no coat! This had not been forecasted at all.Luckily I’d brought my umbrella and Mike was able to borrow one of the guest house’s umbrellas and we walked to the bus stop. We’d have gotten absolutely soaked had we not had umbrellas but it was still rather grim. I’d packed two options for that morning’s run (a strappy tank and my parkrun apricot t-shirt) and in the end wore both as I was cold. The bus journey took about 20 minutes and we picked up more parkrunners as we went. One of them told us that it might be cancelled due to the thunder and lightning and they were making a decision whether to go through with it or not. WHAT!!! Noooooo! Imagine coming all this way and not being able to get my ‘J’! Thankfully when we arrived I saw a Tweet that said it was to go ahead as long as the thunderstorm held off. Thank goodness.The parkrun was located next to the Les Quennevais sports centre. [Side note: check out Paul Jeffrey’s blog for some more good info on this parkrun]. We had a quick mosey about before heading back into the shelter of the sports centre. I had a quick wee and then eventually headed out for a mile warm-up. Absolutely necessary as I was quite chilly. The cycle track near the sports centre was exactly a mile which was perfect and gave us a good idea of what a section of the course would be like.We met lots of other lovely parkrunners as we waited about. There were a lot of tourists like us who had pretty much just come to do the parkrun (for the Alphabet Challenge like us) and some also doing the half the next day. There was one couple that had only flown in that morning and would be flying back out that afternoon. I mean that is mental! More mental that us…One woman, Marie, just had Jersey left to do for the challenge – which was super exciting. She also gave me lots of solid information about how to get ‘Z’ (Zary in Poland) and some tips on how to travel there and where to stay. Super helpful. She had a t-shirt made with all the letters she’d done. Very dedicated. Annoyingly I’d made the mistake of not bringing my cow cowl… everyone was wearing theirs!

The first timer’s brief was hilarious because it was pretty much 80% of the field who moved over to hear the briefing. The marshal had to grab the megaphone so everyone could hear. And then we lined up ready to go. Though I’d checked the results for last week and seen over 300 people had done it, this week there was definitely less than 200. The run director did an introduction and then said “three, two, parkrun!” and apparently we were off! It was mental. I started running and realised there weren’t too many females ahead of me and decided to be stupid and throw caution to the wind and try and get first female. Stupid because of the the half the next day but ehhh.

I’d had a fairly rubbish week of running, with every run feeling hard and lethargic, so I was pretty sure the half wouldn’t go to plan, which is why I decided to capitalise on feeling good then and getting something out of the parkrun in terms of placing.

The first mile ran round the sports centre area on tarmac and had a slight, brief incline but otherwise was flat. Then we headed off along the railway line path which was compacted sand/trail and easy to run on. It was also nice and flat but you did have to do some puddle dodging. I managed to overtake the females in front of me and was now first girl. I felt the run was comfortably tough and the gentle rain helped cool me down – wearing two tops had not been the right decision!

After the first turnaround I realised the wind had been behind us and now it was against us… ehhh. Eventually though we ran down a small slope and got to another turnaround. It made me think, what’s better running downhill against the wind or running uphill with the wind behind? It didn’t matter hugely as we were soon heading out from this path and back to the tarmac where the finish was on the grass. I was surprised to get my token and see I’d gotten 7th place! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten such a high placing before. My time was 20:55. Happy days!But yeah, probably not the wisest decision. And my calf, which had been feeling super tight all week, was niggling a little. Of course. I signed the guest book and chatted to the others while I waited for Mike who wasn’t too far behind me (24:09). He too was supposed to be taking it easy but had run a bit harder than planned.We then headed upstairs of the sports centre to have a hot drink with a few of the other tourists. We enjoyed a lovely cup of tea with them, swapping running and parkrun stories. It’s so nice to meet people as crazy as yourself 😉 One of them, Richard, had got a hire car and offered to drop us back at our guest house which was very nice of him.

At this point Mike and I were ready to eat our own arms as we hadn’t had breakfast yet. It was about 1pm by the time we’d showered and found ourselves a cafe to eat in! It was a lovely place called Nude Food Cafe, which was kind of a health food cafe I guess. Lots of Buddha bowls, raw desserts and smoothies. We went for a rather healthified fry-up… poached eggs, pancetta, spinach, mushrooms, sweet potato and sourdough toast. It was delicious but I hoovered it up very quickly.Afterwards we shared a raw caramel shortbread. It was made out of coconut sugar, almost butter and things like that. It wasn’t overly sweet but it was nice.Thankfully it had stopped raining and was starting to brighten up. From the cafe we decided to randomly head north on the bus to go to do a bit of exploring. To be honest, our decision was down to what sounded good on the map and what bus was available within the next twenty minutes. So we headed to Greve de Lecq. It was to be an adventure!It was definitely a good choice though. The sun was out and we were at a beautiful bay.The beach had barely a handful of people on it and yet the sun was beating down. It was so beautiful. We obviously had to dip our feet into the sea as well. Stupidly I did manage to put my hoodie in the only puddle of water on the rocks…what an idiot. But as the sun was out I thankfully didn’t need it anymore.From the beach we then did a two mile hike along a clifftop path. It was a very windy and narrow path and at times very steep – not exactly ideal the day before a half but it was so beautiful and peaceful we didn’t care.This was such a random little excursion. We were so proud of ourselves to have found such a gem of a location and something fun to do that afternoon. I mean we were really just there for parkrun and the race, so everything extra was a bonus. And this was a definite bonus!

Eventually we caught the bus back and headed straight to the Mexican from the previous night, determined to get ourselves seated. We literally rocked up as soon as it opened. Amazingly they had one tiny table available (apparently the restaurant is always booked up for two week’s in advance!).

I’m so glad we got this table because honestly this is one of the best tasting meals I’ve had in ages. Like literally every mouthful was an explosion of taste. It was incredible. I had chicken wings to start (I know, I know, always the same) and then ‘deconstructed’ lamb tacos for main. GOD it was good.Mike had a burger with slow cooked pork on it. Honestly the food was incredible. I never wanted it to end! I had churros for pudding which were delicious as well but really the tacos were the main event. Maybe not ideal food for the next day’s half but it was worth it!

I’ll save the half for another post…

Have you ever been to Jersey before?

What is your Mexican dish of choice? Normally I love fajitas.

What’s the furthest you’ve ever travelled for a race or run?