Back to speed work

Down South we are having some gorgeous weather lately.

Crisp and cold in the morning and then beautiful sunshine later in the day. The temperatures are still chilly but this only means perfect running conditions for me! I love it. It puts a spring (ha!) in my step.

Do you remember that time I briefly went to track for a bit? Yeah neither do I. A distant memory. It was never going to last due to the amount of faff it took for me to get there. I had to leave work later, drive to Southampton, park 3 miles away and wait for about 15 minutes before running there. My entire evening disappeared. Totally not worth any of the speed gains in my opinion. Yes I did enjoy doing regular speed work in such a controlled way but realistically it just didn’t fit into my routine or make me particularly happy over all.

But anyway, I do know I need to do some speed work. Doing it regularly makes me happy. It breaks up all the samey runs I do and makes me feel strong. At the moment I plan to do them once every two weeks to keep an eye on stressing my body too much and avoiding injuries but I’m quite excited about it.

Kyle and I actually did a speed session last week together round the lake at work. It’s a perfect area to do it as it’s fairly soft underfoot (so less stress on the body), there are no cars, no traffic lights, it’s flat and one loop is about 1.5 miles.

I thought we should test out some mile reps. We started with a one mile warm-up and then the reps would begin. We weren’t going to run together but just run at our own speeds. Incidentally these paces were very similar and actually having Kyle ahead or behind me really helped motivate me to keep up or keep him from catching me. After the rep we’d do a cool down jog for 0.5 miles until we got to the start point again. And then we were off once more.

The reps were hard (to be expected!). I felt it in my lungs and legs. It look a lot of concentration to hold on (but also not to blow myself to pieces too soon).

But I’m really proud of myself for reaching the paces I did. I’ve never done mile repeats this quickly. Genuinely think it helped doing it with someone else. Hugely more motivating than doing it solo.

Speaking of Kyle, we had a lovely Valentine’s Day together. We had a very relaxed evening not doing too much.

He cooked my chicken wings and ribs, which of course are some of my favourite foods. And then we chilled watching Sex Education – which is hilarious by the way (tho a weird blend of British and American-ness).

He bought me some lovely gifts, which included some of my favourite chocolate.

I adore Hotel Chocolat! I was very chuffed. Of course they didn’t last long…

Did you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Do you do speed work?

What’s your favourite speed session?

My 200th parkrun and NO CAKE?!

I love a weekend like this, packed full of running, lovely people and  good food. Shocking for me I know.

Kyle and I headed to Netley for parkrun on Saturday morning. It was going to be my 200th! I wanted to spend it at my home parkrun where I knew I’d see lots of lovely familiar faces and have a coffee afterwards. My intention was to bring cakes to celebrate but then decided against it due to a mixture of a) not being able to bake because I’m horrendous at it, b) not wanting to buy crappy ones from the supermarket, and c) I worried that the weather would be awful and no one would want any because they’d be too busy dashing off home to get warm.

Well, when we turned up the sun was shining and the skies were blue. My lack of cakes did not get unnoticed and I got quite a few comments. Apparently I’m the least likely person to not bring cakes for a milestone. Whoops. I saw my friend, Joe, briefly – he was very busy being the run director. But he did shout out my 200th in the pre-run bit which was nice (YES I KNOW IT’S NOT AN OFFICIAL MILESTONE).

My plan was to push my legs a little but not go as fast as Southsea parkrun the week before. As soon as I started running I could tell things were going to be harder. I’d done a legs day at the gym on Friday and consequently my they felt heavy and clunky. Netley’s winter course has two hills and you do the lap three times, so it’s quite a tough run. The wind was very strong but thankfully it wasn’t dead against us, and actually when we had to go up one of the hills it helped push us up. So not too bad at all.

Photo Credit: Andrew Thorne

Kyle and I ran together and we managed to overtake the local celeb and Olympic athlete, Iwan Thomas. He nicely shouted “well done” to us but then exclaimed “oh blimey, mate, those shorts are a bit short! I think I need to burn my eyes out now”. This was directed at Kyle, not me, which was immensely funny. Giggling definitely helps you forget the pain of trying to run fast!

Photo Credit: Andrew Thorne

As we got up the final hill my legs were burning but I could feel Kyle on my heels and though we weren’t really racing I didn’t want him to overtake me at the last bit. So our sprint finish looks quite epic!

Photo Credit: Ben Vanes

Though to be honest, Kyle looks quite relaxed!

Photo Credit: Ben Vanes

I finished in 21:25, Kyle one second behind (the gentleman). This is good progress for me, considering I didn’t want to go faster than Southsea, because the course is a lot harder at Netley. I mean it definitely FELT harder I will say!

After a lovely coffee and catch-up with some of the other guys, we headed back to shower and get sorted.

That evening we headed to one of our favourite restaurants, Red Dog Saloon. Their menu had recently changed so we decided to check it out. For starters we had chicken wings (Buffalo sauce with blue cheese dip, so good).

And then for the main I had St. Louis ribs, smoked sausage and a few more chicken wings. I honestly think chicken wings are one of my top five foods. I managed to persuade the waitor to give me three chicken wings on the side instead of a usual side (chips, onion rings etc.). He very kindly sorted this for me!

Kyle had Southern fried chicken. We were happy! When we like somewhere we struggle not to keep going back, as you’ll see in a bit…

We then headed to a friend’s 30th birthday party. I managed to scavenge a free pudding from the birthday man, Ed, himself. I was devastated when I tried to order pudding and found the kitchen was closed, but Ed told me he wasn’t eating his so I could have it. I was super grateful, but also now extremely full after also eating a birthday cupcake AND a brownie. Ooooof.

We got up the next morning and I headed out for a quick pre-long run run. I wanted to get about 16 miles in but Kyle didn’t fancy running that long so we worked out if I ran 3ish miles beforehand and then we ran to Southsea together that should be perfect.

The first 3.3 miles were quite hilly around Clanfield and it was spitting a little but otherwise it went quickly. I then “picked up” Kyle and we headed on the road to Southsea. I’ve run a lot of this route before when I ran to Fareham from Kyle’s, but as we got to Cosham we then had to veer off towards Portsmouth.

It’s quite a hilly route – one particularly hill in Widley was one of those grit teeth head down kind of hills but otherwise it was fine. It was nice to run with Kyle and chat and relax into it. Though the wind seemed to be against us the entire way. I had to briefly stop at a petrol station to buy a water, which I almost downed the entirety of standing in the queue! Must have been all that salty food from the night before.

We eventually got to Southsea where we finished the run at the Parade Tearooms, ready to meet Kyle’s mum and brother, Zack, for brunch (well, more like lunch as it was now past midday!). 16 miles for me, 12.5 miles for Kyle. Solid running! Kyle’s longest run since the marathon in December so he smashed it. Though he was a little pooped afterwards (I mean, so was I of course!).

We’d been to the Parade Tearooms last weekend and obviously loved it so much we wanted to go back. My stomach wasn’t really knowing what it fancied and wasn’t hungry at all as we stood waiting for a table (it’s very popular at the weekend). But I knew I would be hungry soon so I never make the mistake to reject food!

I decided on the Jayne Salad again because it was so epic and I thought that the combination of good nutritious salad, carbs and protein would be ideal post run. I also ordered a pot of tea, which is something I crave after a winter long run.

The salad did not disappoint. If anything it was larger than last time – if that’s even possible! I also ordered the chicken to go with it (an added extra) which they’d forgotten. To be fair, it didn’t look like ANYTHING more could be added to the ginormous portion, but out came a separate little bowl with the forgotten chicken. Unbelievable.

And yes, I did polish it all off. It took me some time but I powered through it like the warrior I am 😉

My stomach was pretty jam packed full of salad and I wasn’t really fancying cake (SHOCKING I KNOW). I decided to employ some self-control and avoid the cake while I wasn’t in the mood (though I did regret this later in the day). After last night’s epic feast of food, sometimes you need a little bit of health (and a break for my bank account)!

So a solid weekend. I’m feeling in the groove of marathon training again!

What do you crave after a long run?

How many parkruns have you done?

Do you bring cakes for your different parkrun milestones?

Southsea parkrun, my kinda salad and back to long running

This weekend, though not entirely as I had planned, was a good one!

Friday night I stayed at Kyle’s and we decided to give Southsea parkrun a spin as Kyle had never done it before and there was a tearoom nearby we had been meaning to go to for ages.

It was, as I’m sure the rest of the UK was aware, very cold Saturday morning. But happily very sunny and not that windy – not bad conditions for a coastal parkrun. We decided to park about a mile away so we could have a gentle warm-up beforehand. Not that it warmed us up much at all! By the time we arrived at the start we were still cold.

We stood at the start and listening to the pre-run briefing and heard what we already were aware of, having just run down the promenade. There were large patches of ice, both visible and black, around the start section (and consequentially the finish area as it’s a 1.5 mile out and back straight route). The event director implored everyone to do a “Michael Jackson Thriller style walk” at the start to avoid any slips and the marshals were stood on the main ice puddles to help.

My leg had felt good all week and I decided to see where I was at fitness-wise. I wasn’t going for a full on “ruin myself” style of run but I did want to push the pace a bit. Kyle was less keen to do a fast run so we decided to run separately. I had my Aftershokz ready and was feeling good.

We started and ran carefully through the icy bits – as everyone did – and then as we got to the clearer sections started to push the pace. I felt very much in control and happy at 7.15min/miles. I remember thinking how much I was enjoying the run. My legs felt strong, my breathing relaxed and the sun was shining. Asides from my hands being cold (I had to wear my thinner Nike gloves rather than my thick eGloves, which someone had recently nicked – story for another day), I was feeling good.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get my headphones to play my music but actually I really didn’t mind. I was happy to just listen to my breathing and the noises around me more clearly. We got to the turn around (1.5 miles) and this felt very quick to me. I was feeling goooood. It was nice to acknowledge that fact mid-run – rather than feel like “omg this is fast I want to die” kind of feelings I usually get during 5ks or 10ks.

At the turnaround I knew I could then look out for Kyle, who I assumed was taking it a bit easier so would be coming the other way. However as I continued to run the opposite way I couldn’t see him. As I got further down the line of people coming the other way and he still didn’t appear I realised he must be very close behind me. I tried to look behind me but couldn’t see him. It did help spur me on as I didn’t want him to overtake me (though in reality I wouldn’t have minded and this is a highly likely thing to happen in the future as he’s getting stronger and stronger).

I ran with another guy for a bit until, as I felt my speed increase, I managed to push on ahead. I also passed two females. I thought there was another one ahead so I tried not to get too excited and lose my focus (and controlled breathing). I haven’t been a first female in a while. I finished strong with 21:29, my fastest parkrun since October! Turns out I was first female as well, which was a nice bonus. And a royal flush negative split!

Kyle finished 21:34, very close behind me. A solid run for the two of us. We then jogged gently back to the car. And though there was a huge temptation to go to the Tenth Hole for brunch (as we were parked just outside) we drove the two miles or so down the road to the Parade Tearooms. Though the Tenth Hole is brilliant (those cakes!), I’ve been there quite a few times and we really wanted to try this other tearoom.

I pride myself in doing my research before I go somewhere for food and I’m so glad I did. Though I was tempted by the usual full English breakfast (which Kyle went for – with extra toast) I instead went for the Jayne Salad. Yes, a salad. Yes, a salad on a cold morning. But hear me out. This was no ordinary salad. I joked to Kyle saying this shouldn’t be called the Jayne Salad it should be called the ANNA Salad. The portion size was right up my street!

Piled high (to the point it was actually tricky to eat) with salad, roasted baby potatoes, coleslaw, chicken, bacon, cheese, beetroot… it was GINORMOUS. And exactly the kind of salad I would make if I was making it myself.

It took me ages to eat and I can happily say I was stuffed by the end (yes I ate it all – I read a review on Trip Advisor that someone took half home. Wow, way to go Anna you pig).

Kyle thoroughly enjoyed his fry up – quality over quantity (whereas the Harvester breakfast is very much quantity over quality). And of course we had to take two slices of cake (well, traybake) home with us.

I genuinely stood in the queue having a mare of a time trying to decide what to order. The tiffin? The salted caramel shortbread? The “junk yard” cheesecake? The Crunchie cheesecake? The fudge cake? The Bakewell slice? I almost had a breakdown.

In the end I went for the tiffin. A giant triangle slab. Kyle went for an equally large slice of the salted caramel pretzel shortbread. We took them home to give our stomachs time.

I won’t lie. All I needed was the time it took to bathe and get dressed for me to be ready to eat the tiffin in one with a cup of tea. Hollow legs… human dustbin… greedy. All of the above. It was DELICIOUS. Caramelly, chocolaty, full of raisins and biscuit… so flipping good.

That evening I was supposed to go to my friend’s hen party and see Dreamboyz (like Chippendales I believe…) but my mum needed me to stay in and help her as her left hand is basically useless after her accident (she’s left handed) and my dad wasn’t going to be in. It was a shame to miss the hen do but I appreciated a quiet evening in with my mum instead.

At least it meant I got a solid night’s sleep and could crack on with my long run in the morning without feeling hung over. A silver lining at least! I headed out with the intention to run 10 miles but as I got going I realised I felt good and if it continued that way I’d do 12. I’m lucky to have good routes around me that I can shortern or lengthen my route as I go.

As I got on to the seafront promenade at Hill Head, away with the fairies listening to a podcast, I didn’t see the four very familiar dogs and my parents suddenly appear in front of me. Alfie went a bit mental suddenly seeing me, bless him. I stopped and chatted briefly before heading on – Alfie tried to join but my parents managed to wrestle him away.

So the 12 miles went really well. My leg felt fine. Only my endurance struggled I think, but that’ll come back in time. The weather was perfect. Cold but still. I felt very happy and (god I hate this word) blessed to be running again.

How was your weekend?

Do you ever order a salad?

What’s your favourite tray bake?

Not the weekend I had planned

My plan for this weekend was to go to Liverpool on Friday night.

One of my close friends has just moved from Brighton to Liverpool, which makes visiting a little trickier. Happily though I live very close to Southampton Airport and I found that flying to Manchester and then getting a train from there to Liverpool was the quickest way. Driving would take over 5 hours and the train was £150+.

So on Friday after work I headed to the airport (handily my parents dropped me off as they were off to do some late night shopping in West Quay nearby). I was looking forward to catching up with my friends and also squeezing in the Princes parkrun that is very close to her house.

However, after being delayed the airline then announced that the flight was cancelled. Oh. And the next flight wasn’t until 8.50pm, which I’d be lucky to get on considering the great stampede of disgruntled customers to the customer services and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get a train from Manchester at the other side later that night. So in the end I cancelled the trip. It was really disappointing but we’re going to try again to catch up at some point. My parents were able to swing by and pick me up after their shopping, which was so handy! And I’ll apparently be refunded AND compensated for my cancelled flight, so there’s a silver lining at least.

On Saturday morning I met Kyle, his brother, his sister and his mum (who would be supporting, not running) to do parkrun at Portsmouth Lakeside instead. Because I wanted to still be cautious of my calf post-niggle, I decided to take it easier. I wasn’t in the right mindset to push the pace too much anyway so I was happy for a slightly faster than gentle amble round.

Kyle shot off and I was content to run on my own and concentrate on how my leg was feeling. Hmmm, not 100%. I tried not to let it bother me – i.e. not go into full Anna Panic Mode. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t feeling as good as it had during the week. Maybe because I was going faster than I’d run then? I don’t know.

Our friend Connor was also running so there were a good few people to smile and wave at as we went round. There are a few out and backs so you can see where people are through the run. Kyle was far ahead and I wondered how fast he’d do it in. He’s very much going for the shorter distances and I’m almost certain he’ll be hitting a sub-20 parkrun soon.

I finished in 22:53 which was good for an easier run. I didn’t feel like it was too much of an effort. Kyle finished first out of us, then Connor, then Zack, Kyle’s brother, then Lucy, his sister, followed by Connor’s girlfriend. Everyone but me managed a PB. I was made up for Kyle who got an incredible time of 20:31! Though I did say he looked far too comfortable and happy when I first saw him just after the first mile… 😉 He has more to give!

Kyle, his family and I then headed to Harvester for one of their epic breakfasts – the “All In”. This is basically all you can eat. You can have up to FIVE of each item – including unlimited toast and cold and hot drinks. I forwent the chips (!!) and hash browns and stuck with the modest portion (ha!) of four sausages, three bits of bacon, three eggs, two black puddings, beans, two tomatoes, two mushrooms, a slice of toast and a breakfast muffin.

The toast was done by one of those self-service conveyor oven things. I got it wrong by putting in my slice of bread twice as I wanted it a bit more toasted. Proper charred bread – which Kyle’s mum said she’d eat as she loved burnt toast. WHAT?! This blew my mind.

Afterwards I headed home and got loads of little annoying, niggling little jobs done and felt very productive. Kyle popped over later and we enjoyed a cheeky takeaway and an evening watching You, which we’re really enjoying. It’s creepy but absorbing.

The next morning Kyle and I were going to do eight miles together but after my calf felt a little niggly during parkrun I reverted back to my paranoid runner state. Instead we headed out for four miles. Kyle had just bought himself a Garmin 235. He had previously relied on his Apple Watch and using Strava and after Strava had cut off his run for some reason the day before he decided to push the boat out and treat himself. I’m still amazed by the fact that he ordered it in the afternoon and by 8pm he had it. The wonders of Amazon Prime eh!

It was so windy! Though it was lovely and sunny, that wind was both strong and very cold. I kept the route as much away from the seafront as possible to avoid too much blowing about. Though we did stop to take a photo on the small section we went along. Such a beautiful day.

My leg was feeling good so we decided to make it up to five miles. Nice and easy. I was sad not to have done eight but I’m happy that I was sensible (OK this did not come that naturally to me. It took a bit of Kyle talking to me to make me see sense…).

So not quite the weekend I had planned in any way but still a lovely one.

Have you ever had a delayed flight?

What watch do you use for running?

Does anyone else like eating burnt toast??

My first run in two weeks

So my first run back after my niggle was successful.

My calf and hamstring felt fine during the run. I did 10k, which is probably a bit too far for a first run but I was fairly confident everything would feel OK and I had back-up plans to drop to 5k, or 4 miles, or 5 miles if things went pear shape. It just felt SO GOOD to be out again.

I felt a bit like a coiled spring ready to go as I got into it. Having done some bits on the elliptical machine I don’t think I’ve lost a great deal of general fitness (though of course sharper end parkrun speeds yes I will have – I’m OK with that) but I could tell my joints were like “oh hey ground”.

I then ran another 10k two days later and it felt even better. YAY. I just now need to monitor things and be sensible on this comeback. Obviously I want to run ALL THE MILES IMMEDIATELY but I know from experience this isn’t a great approach. Must remain calm and not get overexcited.

I have the Barcelona Marathon on 10th March. So I’m about 6.5 weeks away. As long as everything continues to go as it is and the niggle doesn’t spark up again or get worse I should be fine. I’m the queen of the inverse taper. As long as I can get one long long run in (ideally 18 miles, amongst some 14-16 milers) I think I’ll be OK. I have no great plans to smash myself to pieces. Instead I want to have an enjoyable run and a lovely holiday with Kyle. Five weeks later is the Manchester Marathon (why do I do this to myself?) so maybe I should aim for a faster (faster but not PB) time there? WHO KNOWS.

I also have the Marathon Talk annual Run Camp again in February which I’m excited about. What I’m not excited about is the lonnnnnnng drive up to the Peak District (no longer is it based at Sandy Balls, wahhh!), but happily I’m driving up with a friend. Lots of lovely MT friends and I’m sure some new ones too.

I’m excited to see a different run camp location. Sandy Balls was great but having done it four times now it was getting a little samey. Plus the Peak District is just beautiful so it’ll be nice to run there. And do the Bakewell parkrun. As someone who adores cake (had you noticed…?) I think this is just fitting.

So lots of good running-related stuff to look forward to. But I’ll whisper that quietly in case the running god decides to smite me down again…

How do you come back after an injury?

Have you done either Barcelona or Manchester Marathon before?

Have you ever been to the Peak District?