Training for the Rotterdam Marathon

So Kyle and I are currently training for the Rotterdam Marathon, which is on April 5th.

We’d signed up to it last year. I’ve always been interested in this marathon because people say it’s very scenic, it’s flat and it’s a bit different to the more popular Amsterdam Marathon (which I would still like to do as well at some point). I needed a spring marathon to look forward to and this made sense.

Kyle decided to sign up too as he wanted another crack at the marathon after his not so great Portsmouth Coastal experience (it’s a very tough first marathon and he only just scraped under his goal of four hours). We’re pretty sure he can run faster and Rotterdam gives him the opportunity to try on a much better course.

Anyway then the whole knee drama happened and I was resigned to not doing it (which Kyle was more than happy about – he’s not a natural long distance runner and to be honest was quite happy for any excuse not to do it). But then my knee got better and by the time I was back running we had enough (ish) time to train for Rotterdam. As Kyle had pretty much stopped running as regularly when I was injured we were both on the same starting block and could do most of our training together as we’re very similar in our paces.

I created a plan and while it was a fairly steep climb, it was doable. We have a limited taper (one week basically) but I tend to prefer this anyway. Long runs increase each week from 6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 18, 18, 10-13, to the marathon. If we had a few more weeks it would have been nice to have dropped down again after the 17 miler, and/or in between the 18s, but we sadly don’t have that time.

So how’s it been going? Well with all the storms recently it has been tough.

Handily we were able to run 10 miles with work on one of the Wiggle Run/Ride Outs which happen every month. It was such a fantastic run.

I felt like I really got into it and got strong and stronger as it went on, finishing with a sharp blast at the end. I’ve had to sit out of these Run/Ride Outs for a number of months so it was so good to be back at it again. A nice way to bond with colleagues and get out of the office.

The weekend after we ran 13 miles from Kyle’s house (near Waterlooville) to Fareham and it was a toughie. The weather was horrendous and it was just so taxing.

For the entire 10-11 mile mark we were straight against the wind. We saw a chap running towards us who looked like he was absolutely loving life – being pushed along nicely, while we were gurning our hearts out just to push forward.

But we survived. It was a gruelling run and character building.

Good for the marathon bank at least!

Last weekend we ran 15 miles. I had planned a nice route round where I live, lovely and flat for the most part and along the sea front. It follows part of the Stubbington 10k route, then the Gosport Half Marathon route. It’s my usual long run locations and I love it because I can run anywhere from 6 to 18 miles around that area without looping back on myself. It’s a very satisfying and pleasant route.

Despite the weather beautiful GORGEOUS, the run didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. As we got into it my hip just started to niggle very slightly. I had somewhat expected this as the other day it had randomly started annoying me when I was at work. Very bizarre. Nothing crazy painful, just a little nag.

During the 15 miles the nag got a bit worse and it just felt uncomfortable. It wasn’t making me slow down or change my gait but it was generating some horrible thought processes in my brain. What if this develops into an injury? What if I’m out for months and months again?

When you’ve had a couple of injuries (and close together) then any sort of niggle gives you The Fear. What if, what if, what if. I have just got going again! Don’t do this! It really killed the vibe of the run for me as I sunk into my brain and ruminated on the worst case scenario. Afterwards I felt a bit “meh” about the run. My brain was in overdrive.

That week I foam rolled and iced and did all the good stuff I know I needed to do (or avoid doing) and went for a trial run on Wednesday morning.

Pre-early morning run

The run went absolutely fine. My hip was fine. I couldn’t believe the relief. What a panic over nothing! And my run the next day equally felt as good. My hip niggle has disappeared. I’m so relieved.

I wonder whether the hip thing was something entirely unrelated to running and then putting it under pressure during the 15 miles aggravated it a bit to inflame it a bit more. But then it died away as quickly as it had arrived.

This weekend is 17 miles and I feel a lot more positive. Kyle’s running has been going well as well. He had a minor misstep in trainer choices and felt his shins start to annoy him. But he switched to a more cushioned shoe (Hokas) and things have hugely improved. Happy days indeed!

Have you ever done any of the marathons in the Netherlands?

Do you like a long taper?

How many weeks do you train for a marathon?

Our trip to Bournemouth – running, food and cats

I feel like I’m so behind and so out of touch with my blog at the moment and it’s really making me sad.

I love my blog. It’s like a diary. I like documenting things, putting photos up and rambling. And if people read it (and thank you if you do :)) it’s a huge bonus.

Work has been taking up my mental capacity to write. It’s not just that it’s busy, but it involves a lot of brain resource that leaves me dwindling at the end of the day. And weekends are packed with everything that doesn’t get done in the week.

And not just work, but life in general. It seems to be moving 1,000mph. It’s good – really good. I’m very happy and content and life is moving in the direction I want, but my blog has unfortunately taken a back seat.

But there’s so much I want to talk about! So I’ll do my best…

A couple of weekends ago Kyle and I went to Bournemouth. Bournemouth is about an hour from us and to be honest we had no real reason to go other than it would be nice to go somewhere and there were a couple of foodie/fun related things we wanted to try.

So we booked a very inexpensive Airbnb for the Friday night and went straight from work. We’ve been so lucky with Airbnb’s in the past. We’ve had one that was strange but not unpleasant but every other one has been absolutely fine, which is obviously why we keep doing it.

This one in Bournemouth though wasn’t great. It was described as a “quiet family home” but on arrival it was clear it was more a “chaotic family home” with children racing around the place and dogs barking loudly. It was a tricky to find out from the host where we were allowed to go, where the bathroom was, did we need a key and trying to explain to them what our movements would be (if we meet the host we like to explain our plans so we’re not just coming and going through their house – especially as we were going to be off early for a run in the morning). She didn’t seem interested at all or like she knew what was even going on.

In the later evening (past 10pm) the children were still running about and playing (they were very young children) and to top it off at 6am we were woken by a loud argument outside our door (lots of “you need to f****** get out”) which was VERY unsettling. To the point that we left ASAP and didn’t even shower after our run. You win some, you lose some!

But anyway. We had a fairly good dinner on Friday night in a place called Mokobo Burger (we still don’t know how to pronounce it).

I had three different types of chicken wings which were really good (though one lot was super spicy) and Kyle had a burger and loaded fries. I have to say that while my wings were good, Kyle’s burger was a bit disappointing (it was slightly burnt) and the “loaded” fries were just insipid fries with a small lump of pulled pork on top… which came out about 10 minutes after our mains.

It was a shame because originally we were going to go to our favourite burger place (Monty’s Burger Lounge) but decided to try somewhere new. Sadly it was loud and hard to talk to each other and just a bit “meh”.

So far, not great for our trip! We woke up early to get in five miles before Bournemouth parkrun as we wanted to get eight miles total for the day. We had grand ideas of running 2.5 miles before and after but in the end it just seemed simpler to get out and do the 5 miles and finish with parkrun.

It was a nice 5 miles, though somewhat unsatisfying because we didn’t really have a route planned so decided to run 2.5 miles towards the sea, and then back again. We could just see the sea a few 100 metres in the distance before heading back.

Obviously I know this already but I really do prefer longer distances. My body just gets into the groove after about three miles and feels nice and in the zone. So by the time we got to parkrun I was ready to go.

Bournemouth parkrun is literally right next to the football ground so getting there felt very much like I had a half marathon or full marathon to run as this was always where the portaloos were for those races in October! But no, just 5k left today.

We lined up in a big huddle and then we were off. It was a bit chaotic to begin with as we were literally just running across a field. It bottlenecked in slightly but was still rather crowded as we got onto the first loop. I found the first mile tough – not because of how I felt running but because of the crowding. It was hard to overtake people and I got wedged in to lots of people. I was scared to knock fellow runners or step on their heels. Eventually though we spaced out and I was able to get past people running slower than myself.

Then I got into my stride. It was like I was suddenly unleashed and I was off. I checked my watch – woah where had that pace come from? And I felt fantastic! Yes it was hard but it was hard in a very manageable way. It felt gooood!

We finished the loop for the second time and then headed off onto another loop for the half (ish?) of the run. I found myself picking runners off and running past. Grimacing but in a good way, I pushed the pace and finished strong.

My time was 22:43, which I’m super pleased with! And eight miles in the bag.

And it was Kyle’s chance to rock his 50th parkrun t-shirt for the first time! (Super impressed how quickly it had arrived).

After parkrun we walked back to the Airbnb and then took our stuff and left sharpish. We then headed to the centre for breakfast at the lovely South Coast Roast. It was very “hipster” and I mean that in the nicest way. Lots of milk options, environmentally friendly and all the avocado options on the menu.

We went for the Bondi breakfast which had avocado toast, tomatoes, poached eggs, chilli jam, pickles (I LOVE pickles!) and then you could add extras. So I added halloumi and Kyle had chorizo. It was delicious.

From there we walked to the nearby Cat Café. Yes, you read that right. It’s a cat shelter but built as a café so you can go in and spend time with the cats (on their terms of course…) and order drinks as well.

We were introduced to the cats and told the rules (no picking them up, no stoking while they’re asleep, being respectful to them etc.) and then ordered some coffees.

Well, I have to say that while the cats were beautiful and the café was friendly and lovely, I happened to meet the most grumpy cat who when I tried to stroke lashed out at my hand and made me bleed slightly. I mean, I am a dog person and I’m not quite as savvy with cats so it was probably my own fault…  but it was a bit of a shock.

A tiny wound to be fair

The other cats were fast asleep so in the end it was a bit of a dud experience. It very much felt like we were there because the cats had allowed us there and we were blessed to be in their presence… As a dog person this is a strange concept to me as dogs tend to just love you and want your company regardless. Cats are definitely more picky and temperamental. They were gorgeous though and well looked after.

Then we headed home! Definitely a weekend of ups and downs – though we enjoyed ourselves regardless.

Are you a cat or a dog person?

Do you need a decent warm up before you get into a run?

Have you ever had a bad experience with a hotel or Airbnb?

Our trip to London and all the food

I’m so behind on my posts. I have so much to talk about as well!

I’ll start first with an incredible weekend I had with Kyle that as just SO good. Kyle and I were super excited about it. It was literally all our favourite things, but sadly without any running.

We planned to go to London for my Christmas present, which Kyle had gotten me. A chicken wings tour! I mean, this was a perfect gift and a perfect excuse for us to spend a night in London and enjoy ourselves.

Originally we’d planned to do the tour on the Friday, stay over and then do parkrun and brunch Saturday. However it turned out that the chicken wings thing was only available Wednesday or Sunday… ehhh. So no parkrun for us sadly as we’d be travelling up Sunday morning to get there for the wings at lunch, then head home Monday after brunch.

It’s funny because after we got there we wondered why we hadn’t brought our running kit so we could do a cheeky run Monday morning. It was a bit of a lost opportunity but I think we were both just too focused on the food.

We did Lee-On-Solent parkrun on Saturday though and ran 1.5 miles there and 1.5 miles back to the car so we could get in a “long run” of just over 6 miles. Obviously 6 miles isn’t that long in comparison to previous runs I’ve done but I’m being super sensible about this comeback and I don’t want to just jump into a 10 miler and bugger everything up.

Anyway, parkrun was good. I saw a few people I knew, which is always nice and had a nice run with Kyle. We took it relatively easy and had a very enjoyable run. We made sure not to stand too close to the back as we have done in the past as it gets crazy busy at Lee and it’s a fairly narrow start.

Sunday we woke up early without an alarm – which is always nice. We got into a bad habit of sleeping very late a few weeks ago which made us feel terrible. I say late, it was about 9am, but this is late for us. We just felt so groggy and like we’d had too much sleep. As lovely as lie-ins are I’d rather naturally wake up earlier and feel refreshed. We relaxed in bed for a while as our train wasn’t until 10 and I decided to go for another short run.

I wanted to be running two days in a row again and adding another 3 mile run to the weekend would help me gently transition into this. The run went really well. No issues and it felt OK (asides from it being around Clanfield which is so fricking hilly!).

It was a fantastic Airbnb!

After the run we got ready and headed to London on the train. It was very tight on timings to get to Shoreditch, check in at our Airbnb (we love an Airbnb) and then meet our tour guide for the wings experience. But we made it bang on time!

It was just us on the tour which was really nice (the tour can have up to 15 people I think). The woman who was our guide (I’m embarrassed to say that while we did get her name I don’t think I’d be able to spell it correctly) was SO lovely. She was friendly, knew so much about the local area and just the right amount of involved. (If you’re interested it’s THIS experience).

She took us to Orange Buffalo to begin with an we got to try two different heat levels. Both flavours were fantastic and it came with a thick blue cheese dip. Honest to God, I could bathe in this stuff. One of my absolute favourite things in the entire world is a buffalo chicken wing with a thick cold blue cheese dip. NOTHING beats that texture and flavour combo for me. I am a simple creature I know.

She showed us around the local area (an area I’d heard about but never been myself), with all the street art, the food market, Banksy artwork… it was fascinating. It was hustling and bustling and busy with electrically (and far cooler) dressed people. It felt very “hip” (and by saying hip I have now fully separated myself from any form of coolness, I do realise this). She had fantastic tid-bits of information and interesting local knowledge.

Cool street art and a tree with lots of trainers hanging from it

The second stop was in the Boxpark in Shoreditch called Coqfighter. It was very exciting for me because I’d heard about these places on social media (follow my Instagram @AnnaTheCake88 for my foodie loving) and now I was getting to actually go there.

The wings were so different from this location because they were of the fried chicken variety so had a crispy Vodka and sesame coating and came with a soy sauce and chilli dip. Damn they were SO good. So different to what I’ve usually had before. The soy sauce dip, dear lord, was good. And the crispiness of the chicken just rocked my world. I was in heaven.

Then we headed, somewhat sadly, to our last location called the Blue Kitchen. We had double fried buffalo wings and Szechuan wings (pictured above). I didn’t think anything could top what we’d had so far but these were FRICKING AMAZING. Double fried? Yes please. In my excitement I sadly didn’t get a picture of the buffalo…but they were fantastic I assure you.

I think I amused our guide a bit because I was clearly VERY into my wings and did a good job of polishing everything off. She was amazed that we ran as much as we did as well – all the marathons and parkruns. It was fun talking to her about it. I felt like we just bamboozled her with our weird lives of eating and running haha.

After the wings tour, we headed to Doughnut Time for some pudding. I mean I was pretty full to be honest but we wanted to get some of these oh so Instagrammable doughnuts. Kyle was VERY excited. We’ve both had them before and had decided as a treat to get a box (and take a couple home for Kyle’s parents – my parents declined as they’re both on Slimming World).

We got over-excited and bought NINE. I mean, Jesus, they’re not exactly cheap either. I think they are a little over-priced and over-hyped for what they are, but it was good fun choosing and enjoying the moment.

We took a big box back with us to the Airbnb and enjoyed a few there. The ones I’d chosen (Sia Later, Ice Ice Bae and Caramacklemore) were delicious. The Sia Later (red velvet) was the best, Ice Ice Bae (with cookie dough and brownie bites) was VERY sweet but tasty and the Caramacklemore (white chocolate) was somewhat disappointing, but possibly because I was quite sugared out by that point. Yes, I was that greedy and ate three. I fully enjoyed them 🙂

Caramacklemore

The next morning, after a lovely little lie-in, we walked to Covent Garden with a little stop in Starbucks for a coffee. We had brunch booked for 12 at the Big Easy (blows my mind that this was the earlier we could book – surely this is now lunch?). We’ve had brunch here before and it’s all you can eat and it’s just fantastic. I mean, if you’re a big meat-eater of course.

We did have a little stop in ANOTHER Doughnut Time, but this time the Doughtnut Time “World”. You can really tell how much they bank on social media for their notoriety.

The shop was set up specifically for taking photos and promoting to Instagram. While it was good fun and quite quirky, it felt a little odd and, well, clinical.

I imagine when they have events it’s a bit better but just Kyle and I in the shop meant it was a bit weird. And the posters around the shop saying that the props were for photos only furthered this. I obviously fully enjoy social media and taking photos, but it was a tad overkill (tho tbf, it had worked for us right?).

Anyway, Kyle bought another of the OG doughnuts because he enjoyed it so much the day before and wanted to take one home. I refrained – I’d eaten three the day before and had one to take home, so I was happy.

Then we got to the Big Easy in Covent Garden and enjoyed even more excess of food. BBQ ribs, smoked sausage, BBQ chicken, pulled pork, chips, cornbread, coleslaw and beans.

It was fantastic and we left very full! The staff are very attentive and brought out more of what we asked and we enjoyed ourselves a lot, but we were now dunzo’ed on food haha.

So a whole lot of eating and a little bit of running!

Do you like all you can eat experiences?

Are you a doughnut fan?

Do you like social media? Do you use it a lot?

Things I’m loving lately (January)

I have such a good recap of this weekend that I can’t wait to rave about (which I need to write!), but for now I’ve had a few bits and pieces that I’ve been enjoying recently so I thought I’d share.

I was sent some cans of the new Radnor Infusions Zero Calorie Sparkling Soft Drink. It’s sparkling Welsh spring water from the Radnor Hills in Radnorshire with a gentle flavour of lemon and mint for one of them and raspberry and black cherry for the other. The water is infused with natural flavours and fruit extracts – meaning no sugar, preservative and sweetener free, and zero calories.

I loved the sound of the drinks before I’d even tried them – I’m a big fan of Wales (having gone to university there and also having relatives there) and this just sounded delightful. It’s not like a diet soft drink though – if you’re expecting Fanta levels of flavours this is not it. Instead it’s quite subtle and delightfully refreshing.

I think I preferred the lime one a bit more and could even imagine adding a little bit of gin in there for a cheeky jazzy G&T. It’s a shame it’s not summer because these are fantastic BBQ drinks – especially for those who don’t want to drink.

I was also sent some leggings to test out from Constantly Varied Gear. Now obviously I am a huge leggings fan and have had my fair share so I was keen to try them out.

The first pair are a kind of cosmic design which I think is so funky. Having worn so many leggings in my time I’m quite a harsh judge. The fit is alright but it definitely isn’t as good as Lululemon or Nike.

They’re a bit more restrictive. Also when testing doing squats in them, they didn’t pass the “no see-through” test. It’s not terrible but especially on the cosmic design the design gets stretched and the material becomes quite thin.

The green leggings were cool looking but not my favourite kind of design.

It was tricky to know where the mesh detail was supposed to go – on your knees? On your shin?

And the waist band and the bottom bits were tight without my give. You’d need to get your sizing spot on to feel optimum comfort.

So all in all, not bad leggings but don’t expect Lululemon or near that quality. They’re nice for a jazzy design.

I was also sent a running belt to test out.

This is so handy because I’ve somehow managed to mislay the two running belts I had previously. I was sent the Premium Running Waist Belt from runnershighstore.com (black, extra small) and it is fantastic.

It fits perfectly above my hips and sticks in place. It fits my iPhone 7 in it and doesn’t bounce.

I barely know I’m wearing it. It comes in different colours like bright green, yellow, pink, blue etc. and it’s very cheap compared to other brands.

And a bit of non-related running stuff… I ADORE my giant Harry Potter mug. I drink a hot chocolate every night (I know, I’m so old before my time).

I hate small drinks – if I have a tea or coffee, it’s in a big mug. And my hot chocolate is no exception! This mug Kyle got me for Christmas after a dropped my other big mug (sad face) is PERFECT 🙂

And that’s all for now folks!

Do you have certain criteria that gymwear needs to be? For me it’s got to be comfortable and look nice – I mean, fairly simple I guess!

What’s your favourite hot drink?

What’s your favourite soft drink?

**Full disclaimer: I was sent a number of these products for free to test out for my blog and social media. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Back to my usual antics…

I cannot tell you how happy I am right now with my knee.

Things have improved so much! After spending so many weeks with a knee that either constantly ached, clicked, niggled and just felt uncomfortable to slowly seeing different symptoms disappear is just fantastic. To walk down a corridor without thinking about my knee is a relief in itself. I want to do a more in depth post on the things that helped and what I did so keep an eye out for that.

This weekend was full of good stuff. Friday night Kyle and I made rocky road ready for the morning as we would be going to Netley parkrun for his 50th. I do feel somewhat bad about how long this has taken because because obviously Kyle could have gone to parkrun without me or have me support, but when I’m injured we’re both a bit more inclined to stay in bed and make the most of not having to rush out the door on a Saturday. But now my knee feels better, we’re back at it.

We made the rocky road by basically melting a load of chocolate we had stashed from Christmas and random times with a load of butter and then mixing in marshmallows, chopped glace cherries, M&M’s and broken biscuits. SO GOOD.

The next morning we luckily naturally woke up earlier than the alarm and decided to get up and sort out the rocky road as it still needed slicing. Jeeze it was hard work! And I ended up eating lots of little pieces that fell off (“tidying up”). So much sugar so early, oops. It did not make me feel that great I must say… greedy Anna strikes again.

Kyle got a milestone shout-out in the run briefing which was lovely and then we were off. I ran a fairly easy pace with my friend Mike as I hadn’t seen him a while and it was nice to have a chatty run. He was running every day in January so he was happy to plod with me. Kyle had more in his legs so zoomed off ahead.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

We ran the winter course which is harder going, but to be honest I felt very comfortable running.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

In fact, chatting to Mike just took my mind completely off how my knee was feeling and when we finished I realised I’d just had a normal run!

My time was 24:55 which I was happy with.

We then handed out rocky road chunks and cleared down the course before heading to the café for tea, more rocky road and a slice of cake from someone else celebrating a milestone.

While I enjoyed all the delicious treats, I didn’t feel it did me any favours not having had anything substantial to eat yet. But it was worth it.

After lots of chores and boring life admin, Kyle and I went to Smith and Western for an early dinner. I mean, this really is our kind of place. Lots of ribs, burgers and, of course my favourite, chicken wings. It was nice and quiet though (it apparently gets very busy and loud later with lots of birthday shout-outs).

Of course I’d already checked out the menu and knew I was almost certainly having the chicken wing sharing platter… but just for me. Kyle was tempted as well. We asked the waitress what kind of numbers we were looking at because that would dictate if we would have one each, one between us or need to order something else alongside (yes, we are greedy people).

The waitress said it was 21 wings, 7 of each flavour (Southern Comfort, BBQ and Buffalo). That sounded like a reasonable number for us to have one each. The waitress laughed at us and said we clearly loved our wings. Yep! Kyle also ordered curly fries.

When the meals came out it looked massive. The waitress then told us that they’d actually just changed their ratios of chicken wings and it was now THIRTY per platter, 10 of each flavour. Wowza! The wings were so tasty. I definitely preferred the buffalo flavour though to the sweeter ones. The BBQ was nice and tangy but the Southern Comfort was really quite sweet if you had a few in a row.

We were well and truly stuffed afterwards of course. The waitress said she was super impressed. She asked us if we wanted pudding and I was like “we’re good but we’re not THAT good”!

That said, I did somehow manage to squeeze in a couple of pieces of rocky road later on as we chilled watched a film. A sweet end to the evening 😉

The next morning I felt well and truly fuelled to go to my personal training session. With my PT we just focus on leg strength. The idea is to get me strong for running so we do a lot of running focused exercises. It’s only been the last month or so I’ve been back seeing him due to my knee, but now I feel so much stronger. My squats are back up to where they were last year (75kg – not a huge weight I guess, but for me it is!), my hip thrusts are back at 90kg and I feel GOOD. I really like seeing my PT as he knows exactly what my goals are and understands my injury history and fears.

Then I headed off to Kyle’s dad’s to have a lovely pork roast dinner. I know, who would have thought I’d be hungry again after all those wings? But clearly my stomach is a bottomless pit!

Happy times indeed 🙂

What’s your favourite roast dinner?

Do you ever see a personal trainer?

Would you say you’re greedy?