Cake (of course), champagne and a whole load of shopping

Other than cycling and swimming, the weekend was still a busy one. It started Friday night with Ben getting a sports massage from our local friendly sports therapist Kyle.

IMG_6729 I must say, there was an element of pleasure in watching my husband get a deep massage, rather than it being me this time! He bared up well – no major swear words or serious grimaces.

Then, after swimming and parkun on Saturday, we got ourselves nice and dapper ready for my mum’s birthday. What better way to celebrate than to take my parents for champagne afternoon tea?

We went to the fairly local MacDonald Botley Park hotel. Champagne afternoon tea It was very posh. We had little dainty sandwiches, two (two!) scones each and small dainty cakes. As I’ve had my fair share of afternoon tea and I feel I can judge these things quite well now 😉 I must say it was very nice. The scones were superb. Personally the cakes, though tasty, weren’t the best I’ve ever had. I much prefer a big slab of one particular cake rather than tiny portions of different cake (there was a chocolate coffee thing, slices of lemon poppy seed cake, plain sponge and fruit cake).

Can we just continue to talk about cake a moment? I’ve fallen off the wagon and into the dessert trolley it seems. My previous one week without cake only heightened my need for it. Things weren’t great last week.

Wagamama's dessertWell obviously they were great taste-wise, but not great for my sugar consumption!

I went to Wagamama’s with work friends and after feeling rather saintly (but still a tad hungry) after my chilli chicken salad and miso soup I was persuaded to look at the pudding menu – well, I hardly need persuading! This then resulted in two of us ordering a stupid amount of different puddings. It was being expensed by work and some people weren’t having pudding…so it all evened up. In the end I had the above chocolate fudge cake, half a white chocolate cheesecake, I had some coconut ice cream, raspberry ice cream and a try of the passion fruit cheesecake. Needless to say I felt a little full afterwards. It was rather funny to watch people’s faces as my work colleague and I demolished a table of puddings.

But I think I fully put to bed my incessant craving. Obviously I then had afternoon tea on Saturday but I’m in a good place now with my cake love – it’s manageable 😉 Though I did have a baking fail on Monday when I attempted to make a chocolate peanut butter brownie to take into work the next day.

Baking disasterI think it’s probably safe that I can’t really bake very well. Who knows how many cakes I’d try to make in a week otherwise? Dangerous for both bank account and waistline.

To be fair, after I scraped the burnt bits off it looked a little better. A bit of melted chocolate drizzled on top sort of livened it up as well. But cutting it the next morning was a proper arm workout. It was a brick, there’s no denying it.

But can I just say: there was none left on Tuesday evening. Not such a fail after all? Or maybe my office are that desperate for baked goods…

Jumping back to Sunday, Ben and me had a lot of shopping to get done. New trainers, new trail shoes, a tent (for our upcoming 24 hour race in June – I’m trying not to think about that right now), camping chairs and walking boots.

New trainers - Mizuno NirvanaWe both successfully got the new trainers (Mizuno Nirvanas for me). It’s funny because I went with the intention of changing from Mizuno’s as that’s what I’ve always had and I thought I might need a change. I’m a serious over-pronator so always have to go for a stability shoe. But out of all the ones I’d be advised to try and had a little run in, the Mizuno’s felt the best. Saucony’s felt very rigid and the Brooks were second best but just not as good.

We got the walking boots done and dusted too.

Walking boots These are for our upcoming trip to Snowdonia to see my grandad (who is a qualified British Mountain Guide and used to do crazy amounts of rock climbing, mountaineering, and still goes mountain biking and lots of walking – as well as the slightly less exciting golf ;-)). He’s taking us up Snowden (or at least pointing the way) so we needed to be prepared. We’re very excited!

And other than Monday’s cycling and Nando’s extravaganza, that’s pretty much it!

What’s been a recent baking fail for you?

Have you ever ordered more than one pudding off the menu? It felt so indulgent and extravagant!

Have you been hiking before? Anywhere nice?

A long way to go

This year has been very strange in terms of running. I started the year feeling absolutely pants, recovering from a stubborn injury. I got back into running fairly slowly when my knee started to hold up and began gaining back speed and things were going well.

Then after the Reading half (not many weeks before the marathon) I was struck down with another injury (sprained ligament in my ankle). Luckily because it was such an acute injury it went away as quickly as it appeared (just over two weeks). But it knocked my training and made me readjust my expectations for the marathon.

The marathon happened and I did so much better than I could have dreamed. No issues, a GFA and a great experience. Off the back of that though it has been quite a tedious time with running. I love it still, don’t get me wrong. But gaining back speed has been a tough old slog. I’m nowhere near where I was this time last year in terms of my parkrun times and I don’t feel as confident a runner as I used to be.

I’ve been going to regular club training sessions, parkruns and the odd race but things don’t seem to be there as easily as before. I know it’s just time, but I’m so impatient. Though I’m over the moon for my running friends and husband getting PBs, it’s frustrating for me that my PBs were achieved last year when I was in peak condition so my chance of beating them soon are slim.

This was evident when I really tried to go for it at parkrun on Saturday. I had my game-face on, the course was the flat five laps around the cricket pitch, and I was feeling ready.

Parkrun 10.05.14

I got 21:32 (2nd female) which is over a minute away from my PB. I really pushed it and felt shattered afterwards.

10.05.14 Parkrun I know I can get the speed back if I consistently train and do the right sessions, I’m just having a moan. I know I am very lucky to be able to run and enjoy it – don’t get me wrong. Since my numerous injuries, I am very grateful for every run and I know injuries are so easy to get. My runs could be numbered at any point. I just feel a bit useless at the moment with my running.

I also had the worst run of my entire life. I’m taking part in our running club’s league races (Hampshire RR10s) and we had one last Wednesday night. The races are typically 4-5miles long, off-road and undulating. This one was in the New Forest.

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Ben and me met up with the rest of the club and warmed up.

IMG_6623 Ah those happy faces, unaware of what was to come

I started ridiculously fast. Like stupid fast. It was downhill and I was just like “la, la, la, I’m so speedy”. Then hit the wall and the wheels came off spectacularly on mile two. It was painful, horrible and I thought at one point just to stop.

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Thankfully, I didn’t. I zipped up my woman-suit (girl version of man-suit) and just persevered. There was so much thick mud to get through it was a nightmare. Then a lovely long hill for 3/4 mile at the end. Joy.

IMG_6624My lovely new Run Mummy Run compression socks fully Christened with mud on their first outing

I’ve never been so glad for a race to be over. I’m not joking when I say I’d rather do the marathon again than that race. Too fast, stupid pacing, too much mud. A silver lining at least was that I got 11th female and first female in my club.

Because I knew that I worked very hard at the RR10 and I was also aiming for a good time on Saturday’s parkrun, when Ben and me signed up to the Alton 10 miler race on Sunday I knew straight away I didn’t want to race it. But Ben was keen to go for a PB (honestly, that boy is on fire. He got a PB at parkrun! I’ll be watching my back soon – he was nine seconds behind me). Ben’s 10 mile PB was 1:26:xx but that was last October and he’s made some great improvements since then so it was clear he would PB (providing all went well). It just depended on by how much of a PB it would be. He wanted 1:18. So I said I’d pace him as that was still quite a comfortable speed for me. Not an easy run, but not a racing speed (my PB is 1:15, of which I’m not happy with but let’s not go there).

The run was well organised and the course was very scenic – think traditional little British villages and farms. But undulating and windy on the day.

We ran fairly steady. I struggled a little bit due to a slightly niggling hip (let’s not talk about it) but other than that it went fine. Ben ran well and achieved his goal with time to spare – an 8 minute 1 second PB.

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He was over the moon, as you can imagine. Two PBs in one weekend. Nice work, hubby!

Alton 10 miles finish

Running is never easy. You really have to put a lot of hard, consistent work in to get good stuff out. I know I’ll get there again, it just takes time.

Alton 10 miles medal

Have you ever felt frustrated with your ability?

Is your other half into sports or fitness? Do you compete against each other? I never want to race against Ben. I’m sure he’ll get faster than me at some point but I don’t mind. I’m happy that he’s doing so well. I never want to compare his performance against mine. It would be silly anyway considering he’s male and I’m female!

Have you ever been paced or have ever paced someone else in a race?

Fashionably Fit: Look good to work hard?

I never used to care what I looked like when I worked out. For me it was all about just getting out there and getting it done. I had my bog standard leggings, a couple of tops and a jacket. Who cared what I looked like at 6am on a cold Thursday morning?

But after realising how much I loved running, and general fitness really, I started expanding my wardrobe a bit and looking around at the different shops and online sites.

Suddenly not only did I want good quality gear but I wanted stuff that actually looked good. And why not? I like to wear nice clothes in ‘real life’ so why not running? This might sound vain and vacuous but when I feel like I look the part then I feel more confident. Especially at races. That awkward moment at the start of the race when you look round at other people and judge them by what they’re wearing – ridiculous yes, but it can knock your confidence a little if you don’t feel good yourself.

A while ago Katherine Jenkins got a lot of stick for running a marathon in full make-up (check THIS article out). I can’t understand the venom that went her way. Why have a go if it makes her feel more confident? Surely it doesn’t detract from her performance? We have a girl at our running club who runs in fake eyelashes. She’s happy so what’s the problem?

SportsShoes are running a Fashionably Fit campaign and they invited me to ponder this question of whether looking stylish spurs me on to work harder while exercising or are you fully focused on how you feel rather than what you wear? To me this is like good running music, anything that gets you in the zone can spur me on. And looking stylish and ‘on form’ definitely gets me in the zone.

I was sent some cool Nike workout clothes to review to see whether this was the case.

I received this running top which honestly could be my favourite cold weather jacket.

Nike running jacketIt zips right up to the neck, or you can unzip it to give yourself a bit of ventilation. It was brilliant during my wet and muddy Parkrun a few weeks ago. And it has a back pocket and thumbholes which I love. Definitely more stylish than my usual boring zip up jackets that flap about a bit.

I also received these amazingly bright capris and workout vest.Nike1-77 top and Pro II compression caprisI love how bright the capris are because most of my running gear tends to be quite dark and all my leggings are black. These will be brilliant for my parents to spot me at races. They’re also very comfy – I foresee these to be worn around the house…The top is ideal for when I’m strength training or doing Pilates. But it does have the ‘DRI-FIT’ fabric which wicks the sweat from your body, so no embarrassing sweat stains.

And this running vest.

Nike Balance 2.0 Women's Tank Top Running Vest

I like this top because you don’t have to wear a sports bra under it as it has some extra support.Nike topIt’s so comfortable and it wicks away the sweat. It also is a very flattering shape. I did feel a little naked though at the gym in this outfit! It’ll probably be a top I use during the summer racing months as well as it’s so lightweight.

And socks. Because socks are so important! I hate socks that slip down and are annoying or give me blisters. These are ideal for running. Probably more on the functional side of things than looking good!Nike 3-Pack Quarter Running Socks

Call me vain, slate Katherine Jenkins, but seriously I’m in the camp that when you feel confident in yourself and how you look, it makes you feel good about what your doing and helps you keep motivated and working out strong.

What do you think?

Do you like to look good when you work out?

Do you put more effort in for things like races, or if you’re going to the gym and people will see you?

Do you wear make-up to workout in?

**These products were sent to me for free in order to review, but all opinions are my own.**

Friday Favourites

Happy Friday! I cannot believe how quickly time is flying. I’m started to get those pre-Christmas panics (you know the ones…cards, presents, food, decorations). But it’s still October. Whew.

I thought I’d do a post on some stuff I’m loving lately.

Treats in the office:

Although it’s always sad when someone leaves, I do fully appreciate them buying cakes for us to indulge in. Or having a wife that bakes cake and has leftovers!

Office treats

Clockwise: Halloween themed cupcake, oat and raisin cookie, caramel cupcake

Delicious! Nothing like cake to brighten up a day in the office.

Ben embracing the plank challenge:

I’ve been trying to do planks every other day, usually in an evening in my PJs just before bed. Ben sits on the sofa watching TV muttering some weak words of encouragement (“come on, it’s not that hard”). So when I’d collapsed into a heap on the floor I turned and challenge him to do a plank. I scoffed that he wouldn’t manage a minute.

Ben planking

Challenge accepted and accomplished! He proved me very wrong. He did a very successful minute plank. He refused to go further than a minute though. Apparently proving me wrong was enough.

Doing stretches in the ladies’ toilet:

Yeah it sounds weird. Yeah it is weird. I need to get these stretches in and so I’m squeezing them in wherever I can. Nothing major, just hip flexor stretches and pendulum kickbacks.

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I live stretch in fear of someone walking in and seeing me though…Not like I haven’t already got a reputation at work of being a little bit strange (mug incident).

Slow cooker meals:

I’ve been enjoying a fair few slow cooker meals recently and I’m loving it.

Slow cooker

It does involve a little preparation either the night before or in the morning, but it saves so much time in an evening. Perfect for when I’m back late. More on my favourite recipes to come!

Running in thunder storms:

My eight mile run on Tuesday evening began with some scattered bits of lightening which was all very exciting. On mile four, however, the heavens opened up and it was a crazy downpour!

Running in the rain

Sorry that the video is a bit rubbish! You can see how hard it was raining in the puddles though. When I got home I was soaked and ready for a lovely hot shower.

Running in the rain

Doing my best drowned rat impersonation

But other than getting drenched, it was a good run. I kept it fairly easy running 8.30-8min/miles. I wanted to ease gently back in to it after my niggle reoccurrence and also with the race on Sunday.

My best friend and worst enemy:

I recently got a new foam roller as I found my smooth one wasn’t quite ironing out all my kinks. So I upgraded to this bad boy:

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A Trigger Point foam roller. It has ridges in it to mimic a person’s hand, attempting to emulate a sports massage. I love it. It really does get into your muscles and work hard. Plus it’s nice and small to tuck away easily. Now if only I could take this to work and use it in the ladies’…

Cold weather running gear:

I can run in the cold no problem. I get warm quickly and it doesn’t bother me. All except my hands. They never get warm on runs. Last winter I just used regular gloves and they were sort of OK but a nightmare when I wanted to do something on my iPod. Now I have some great running-specific gloves with a thumb area that works on the iPod/phone screen!!

Nike Running Gloves

Plus they just look cool and aren’t bulky. In fact I feel a bit like a magician in them Open-mouthed smile

And here’s some random links for your viewing pleasure:

What things are you loving lately?

What’s your essential workout item?

Foam rollers: do you use them? I can’t live without mine now.

Positives and negatives

Happy Friday! We made it – almost time for the weekend. And apparently a wet and windy one for the UK. Joy of joys.

Yesterday was a slightly different day as I was working from home. There were several positives and negatives in my day so I thought I’d base my post around that theme.

Positive: No commute in the morning. Bliss. Also, getting up at 8am is heavenly. I think I had a full 10 hours sleep.

Negative: I was really sleepy and reluctant to actually get out of bed. Can’t I work from bed? No. I needed to get up, showered and downstairs at our table to get into ‘work mode’.

Positive: I had Cougar Town on in the background as I worked. I am so addicted. I think I love every single character. They’re hilarious. Also 20 minute episodes are perfect chunks.

Negative: I had to keep pausing Cougar Town when I needed to concentrate and think. I would have loved to have just sat there watching the TV all day but I actually have work to do and it required a bit of brain power. Boo.

Positive: Unlimited access to all food.

Negative: Unlimited access to all food. Thankfully I had our weekly food shop delivered later in the day so we were a bit bare on the snacks until the afternoon. Then a huge watermelon came into my life.

Watermelon snacks

And then there was some serious watermelon massacre…Watermelon massacre

I couldn’t stop. It was so good.

Positive: I got loads of chores done in between working. Putting the washing on, hanging it up, etc. I love feeling doubly efficient..

Negative: Alfie giving me his big old furry “walk time?” eyes. All. Day. Long. No Alfie, you just have to go in the garden I’m afraid.

Positive: I had running club in the evening which was great because it meant I didn’t have to rush home and have a mad dash to get ready. I could even prepare dinner for when I got back (Ben was working late so it was just me for dinner). I could just shut down my laptop and amble upstairs leisurely.

I was quite nervous about running club as I hadn’t run since Sunday (all part of the ‘easier’ week). I was just terrified of any pain or discomfort. But I started running and it was great! Towards the end of the run my groin was slightly achy and I could feel it going downhill but otherwise I felt quite strong.

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I got to the meeting spot to find my usual group flagging on numbers. In the end it was two speedy guys and me. It wasn’t too tough and we took it easy in the middle as it’s now a lot darker in the evening and we were running through some woods and had to be careful of footing. I managed to push it on my own for the last mile as I headed home.

Positive: I got to wear my new high vis’ arm band. It’s got LED lights all round it that you can turn on. Brilliant for the winter. One of the guys said it looked cool

Negative: That same guy said it looked cool…just like a Christmas tree. Excellent.

The run really helped me feel more confident for my goal pace for the half marathon on Sunday. Basically I’m going to aim for a certain pace (comfortable but not completely easy) and then as I hit 9 miles see what I think of pushing it a bit more. Who knows. I’ll see how it goes.

I’ve ummed and arr’ed about taking my hydration belt but I think I’m just going to go ‘naked’ (there’s an image!) and if I need water pick it up at the drinks stations (of which there are plenty). I don’t think I’ll need any gels either, but there are some available there.

After the run I got home and ate a mammoth meal of stir fry veg, chicken, butternut squash, courgette (zucchini) noodles, chicken and cream cheese.

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You know when you go from starving to full really quickly? Yep I felt that quite strongly last night!

So tomorrow I’m off to Bristol to see friends, and then it’s the half marathon on Sunday…duh duh DUH (<– dramatic music, if you didn’t get that…)

What are your plans this weekend?

Do you switch up your work out gear for winter? Any high vis’ lovers out there?

Water, gels…how do you fuel during races? Unless it’s hot I won’t bother, maybe just water from the stations. Gels only if it’s really tough. I’ll have had a good breakfast so I’ll be fine.