New Year’s Day Swim

New Year’s Eve was pretty quiet this year. No big parties, getting drunk and waking up with a hangover.

Instead I had a lovely evening with the family playing games and eating good food. Sadly I missed parkrun on Saturday due to my calf. With Dubai being so close I don’t want to turn a niggle into an injury. I know I can run the marathon and that I have enough time to let the calf sort itself out IF I’m sensible. But if I try and push through the tightness and discomfort then it could become something serious and I won’t be able to run Dubai.

So I was sensible. I went to the gym instead (something I don’t do at the weekend) and spent some quality time on the elliptical machine. The weather was fairly awful over the weekend with windy showers so actually I wasn’t too sad to miss a cold and blustery run. I watched The Sinner and got in some solid cardio. Of course nothing beats parkrun in terms of those warm, fuzzy feelings and the social elements of it but with Dubai creeping closer and the motivation for the gym at its best during the morning, parkrun had to be missed.

I knew I wouldn’t be doing the double parkrun on New Year’s Day either, as much as I’d loved to have gone. I was quite down about it but decided instead of moping I’d do something completely different to take my mind off of it. As I live near the Solent I’d often heard about people taking a dip in the sea on New Year’s Day. I decided I’d give it a go! I’m not really a swimmer – I can swim, I just don’t enjoy it (it’s such a faff, especially with my hair and I don’t get any sort of runner ‘s high-like feeling from it) and I really am not a fan of swimming in the sea. But it would be a challenge and an experience.

Initially I thought I’d just go down to the beach and do it on my own – or with a mini support crew that is my parents and granddad. But my mum mentioned that the Lifeboat people (GAFIRS) do an organised event at Stokes Bay every year. That sounded far better. The thought of doing it on my own sounded horrific, but with a bunch of other people it sounded…fun? All I had to do was register online and show up at 11.45am.

This was ideal as it meant I could go to the gym in the morning to do some cross-training beforehand (effectively doing what I would be doing if I had gone to parkrun) and then eat breakfast and go to the beach. Luckily Stokes Bay is close so it wasn’t a trek to get there.Unfortunately it was tipping it down!IMG_2403I’d decided to keep it simple and wear my running shorts and a sports bra as I knew wearing anything more would only make things worse with the cold water. Basically, wearing less is better! Though when we arrived and I spotted lots of people wearing fancy dress.
IMG_2402I was quite envious of the people wearing onesies or who were more covered up – they looked far warmer. Of course I had my layers on beforehand thankfully and my dad ready to hold on to them when I went it. I had my flipflops on (the best I could do at such short notice) and a thick towel in a bag ready with some dry clothes as well to put on. I was very well prepared.IMG_2411My mum and granddad found a good spot on the side of the beach with the other spectators. My granddad made me laugh later when he said my mum was “lethal” with her umbrella. She’s quite short and I don’t think she was quite aware of how many people she was poking…The GAFIRs had put on a great welcome for everyone with hot drinks, cakes, snacks and even a steaming buffet of chili! As someone who lives near the sea I fully appreciate the work these guys do. The lifeboats and the coastguard must work in some terrible conditions at times. So this event is fantastic at helping raise money for their charity.IMG_2404.jpgAt 11:50 they told us to get ready and stand on the slipway. There were almost 400 people that were going to be entering the water so things needed to be fairly well organised. There were lots of spectators huddled under umbrellas and photographers taking our photo.IMG_2405It was funny because I got my dad to take a quick photo on the slipway in my “swimming gear” and suddenly about four photographers started taking my photo too… You can see my dad in the background looking a bit awkward (and slightly Russian…) haha!
IMG_2466Not my best look it must be said!IMG_2465But anyway, we all stripped down to our gear and got ready on the slipway. My feet by this point were freezing. I’d been in my flipflops from the beginning and the cold rain had really chilled them to the bone. We stood like penguins together, all shivering and honestly I would have cuddled up to anyone I could at that point I was so cold. Big burly men were looking rather appealing! The organiser on the megaphone told us it would be eight minutes before we’d be released. WHAT. There was a huge collective groan from everyone as we realised we’d be standing there in the cold for a while. Others around me were dressed in a wetsuits (cheating really), swimsuits, trunks, fancy dress and everything in between. Two lovely ladies next to me said their children had signed them up to do it which made me laugh.

What felt like an eternity later we were told “five minutes to go”. At this point I was hopping up and down and rubbing my arms furiously to try and not die (well, that’s what it seemed like it anyway). It’s funny because the whole set-up felt a bit like a pre-race bit. The excitement, nerves, the huddles of people…OK half-naked people but people with intentions anyway! The only thing was I knew in 10 minutes time I wouldn’t be warmer, as I would be in race, I would be very much colder.

FINALLY we counted down 10 seconds and then the ribbon was lifted (by the Mayor of Gosport no less – no she wasn’t going in) and we all stumbled/ran/walked into the water. I mean, it was cold but it wasn’t like Jack floating in the ocean cold. In fact, the water was warmer, so they said, than the temperature outside. But it was still bloody freezing. The shock of it as it hit your skin was really quite something.IMG_2423Everyone was screaming, splashing and laughing and it was rather exhilarating. I made sure to fully plunge myself in (though not my head; they warned us from doing this because we might go into shock!). I felt my flipflops slip off my feet as I stepped forward, but there was no way I was going back for them. And then I quickly got myself out of there. To climb the pebbly shore back to the slipway was SO painful. My feet were in agony, they were so cold.

Bless my dad he practically ran over to me and then quickly wrapped the towel around me (though in his haste he did manage to drop my clean, dry clothes into the puddles then step on them *sighs*). We then huddled in the doorway to the lifeboat centre while I got a bit warmer. Everyone around us was in the same boat (excuse the pun): freezing, a bit in shock but, as I was, very much happy. It was a fantastic experience!IMG_2408The only bad part was my walk back to the car, which really wasn’t far away but my feet were now in agony. My big toes had gone numb and it was just awful. My mum tried to guide me back but she was walking too quickly (I say “quickly” but really we were crawling along) and she had to slow down further for me. My granddad had gone ahead to warm up the car – the invalid that I was now!IMG_2409It might have been nice to have hung around a bit and chatted to the other people but it was just so cold and the rain was still coming down so we thought it best to head off. I was very grateful for the warm car – though really it was only my feet that were still frozen. The rest of me felt quite invigorated. My dad gave me his fluffy hat to put my feet in, bless him.

I went straight for a hot shower after getting home. This sounds like a broken record now, but the pain of the hot water on my feet was almost worse! The bottom of my toes were tingling awfully. Would I do it again? Absolutely! It was such a thrill and full of comradery with the other people. But next time I would DEFINITELY wear better shoes – like those wetsuit style ones. They’d be far better! I would also probably wear fancy dress because, well, it’s a bit more a laugh then! 😉

The rest of the day, after finally getting warm and my feet feeling normal again, we spent dog walking, playing games and enjoying a delicious chicken roast dinner.IMG_2412Obviously it would have been lovely to have started the year with a run but the swim was fantastic. Plus my calf is feeling far better so I’m not stressed 🙂

Have you ever done a New Year’s Day swim?

Do you like swimming in the sea?

Did you do the double parkrun?

Two cities, two runs, and two tasty meals

Well I have definitely had a bit of a whirlwind start to the year. Going to Orlando, then going to the Marathon Talk Run Camp and then going to Tokyo… And the fact that last weekend (the first weekend after Tokyo) I went to Bristol and then Swindon. So I’m really looking forward to a weekend of doing nothing!

To be fair though the weekend was really good. I drove up to Bristol and spent Friday night with my friends, Kate and Jamie (the ones I went to Orlando with). We had a nice home-cooked meal (with chocolate cake, love my friends) and then a gentle evening of TV watching. Exactly what I needed!

In the morning we didn’t have time for parkrun before picking up another friend from the train station so I got out early-ish to do a quick 3 miles on my own. Well, it was supposed to be a 3 miles until I got lost and ended up doing over 3.6 miles. Not too bad by my usual standards. I just couldn’t seem to work out what road I’d come down. It was OK though as I found a pretty pond and water feature to take a selfie with when I got my phone out to check where I was 😉The weather was just lovely and the scenery very pretty so it had to be done though I kind of wish I hadn’t got the bin quite so prominently in the photo!

The run felt good. It was the second run I’d done since the marathon. On Thursday night I’d run with my friend, Mike. Stupidly we’d gone almost 8 miles… I really shouldn’t have post marathon because, well, I’m so fragile and injury prone but we had a lot to catch up on. We call these runs “therapy runs”. Mike’s a good friend and we always have good chats about life and the universe on these runs. My legs definitely felt heavy and it was a slog but it was a good run regardless.

Anyway Saturday’s run felt better. Then I got back and got ready to head out for a day of fun with my friends. We were celebrating Kate’s birthday and were heading to one of those “locked in” room games, called Puzzlair. We’ve done one previously and it was brilliant. This one was very similar but equally as stressful.The people that ran it was so friendly and helpful. The whole reception area was covered with people leaving feedback all over the walls, it was quite impressive. The idea behind the game is that you get locked in a room that’s full of clues. You have one hour to get out of the room. There are things to open using codes and keys that you have to find everywhere. It’s such good fun but you really do have to think hard and clearly. If you get really stuck there’s a TV that gives you clues (the organisers watch you and so can help you when you need it). But even those tips are still cryptic. We got out with 2:35 mins to spare!From there we headed to a really tasty Lebanese place that I’ve been to before and loved. We ridiculously over-ordered. I mean, we would have been OK had there been four Annas not one Anna and three normal people…It was so tasty; lots of lamb koftas, lamb cutlets, chicken wings, prawns, shawarmas, couscous, flat bread, rice…and lots more. It overcame us (yes, even me. I was clearly having an off-day). We got it wrapped up to take back though. I was staying with Kate again for Saturday night so dinner was sorted!

The next morning I headed off early to meet my new friend from Tokyo, Chris, in Swindon for a run. He’s an off-roading pro and offered to give me a fun running experience just outside of Swindon. He warned me it would be hilly and muddy so I came prepared with my trail shoes. I rarely do any off-road running and I’m keen to get more into it as I need to change things up from all the road running. I’m hoping that’ll help keep me more injury free as well!

He’d picked a fantastic route, just a small section of the Ridgeway (apparently the oldest road in Europe! And part of the iconic Race to the Stones ultra race). We parked up and ran a 4.5 mile route out and back. It was muddy straight away but then we headed across grasslands which was a lot easier underfoot. The wind was behind us which was great…but as we were doing an out-and-back not so great for later.

The views going up the hills was really beautiful. I twas a fantastic run where the miles just ticked off because there was a lot to see and the terrain so varied, going across grass, up hills, along stones… it was a lovely run.As we turned around at 4.5miles (after a rather punishing steady incline) the wind was right against us. Then the rain began. It got very tough. Honestly, the last two miles of the run with that icy wind blowing strongly against us (I felt like I wasn’t even moving, or worse getting blown away at times!) I truly believe that the last two miles of the marathon the other week were easier! It was funny because though Chris might have struggled a little on the marathon he seemed absolutely fine against the elements and off the road. I really had to dig deep and have a word with myself. It’s amazing how you can be OK at running one type of terrain but completely out of your comfort zone in another. I was glad that Chris had seen me running at the marathon otherwise he might have thought I was pants at running (and a moaner…).

We couldn’t even talk much (and not just because I was slowly dying), the wind was so strong I couldn’t hear a thing! By the end of the run I was shattered but felt really accomplished. I survived!Embarrassingly when I uploaded the run to Strava I wrote “ridiculously easy” run as the title, meaning “ridiculously windy” – no idea how “easy” came up! It was only when a friend commented that I realised. No it was 100% NOT easy!!As I hadn’t had any breakfast or a coffee that morning and we were both very cold (even though I wore gloves my hands were freezing – I don’t know how Chris managed without any on), we headed straight to Starbucks. We were covered in mud and looking a state (well, my hair was definitely something to behold!) but I just needed a hot drink. Then we got showered and sorted and headed out for a lovely pub lunch. Exactly what you need after a windy, cold and hilly run!

We went to the The Harrow Inn in Swindon and it was lovely, a very cosy country pub. I had a butternut squash soup to start (so thick and tasty) and roast pork shoulder for a main.There was veg as well but I was too hungry to snap a proper photo. It was really tasty and filling. We both spotted something on the pudding menu that took our fancy (brownie for me, no surprises there) but sadly they didn’t have the sticky toffee pudding for Chris so we decided to give it a miss. We were quite full anyway (who even am I right??) so it wasn’t too bad.

Then it was time to head off home and finally be reunited with my furry little friend, Alfie, who I hadn’t properly seen since before Tokyo. A lovely weekend with lovely people 🙂

Have you ever done a locked in room?

Are you good with solving puzzles and clues?

What’s your favourite roast dinner?