A parkrun fail and trying new things

This weekend gone I headed up to Cheltenham. I’ve only been there once before for like a day to see my friend Shell so it was nice to see it again for a bit longer. It’s a lovely place – though strangely has lots of white buildings and lots of buildings with columns on, which to me is the height of poshness 😉

And clearly Cheltenham is very posh as they even have their own Wholefoods! Wholefoods is obviously a lot more popular in the States, but we have a few mostly in London and this random one in Cheltenham. Obviously I had to pop in there for lunch on Friday between working.

The salad bar was obviously a lot smaller than the amazing America ones and I was told the burritos were amazing so that’s what I went for. There was a little Mexican food stand where you could have burritos or quesadillas made up for you there and then with your choice of fillings. I went with a chicken, rice and extra guacamole burrito and it was HUGE. It was jam packed full of filling. So tasty. I also had a cheeky rocky road slice afterwards as well. I pretty much needed a nap afterwards though I was so full…but back to work I went!

On the Friday night I did a (beginner’s) salsa class. This is a bit crazy for me as, being ridiculously clumsy and generally an awkward person, I’m not a natural dancer. That said, I did ballroom dancing at school (in preparation for our prom) and I loved it so I was quite excited to give it a go.

Awful photo sorry but I tried to take it discreetly at the beginning!

Well, I wasn’t terrible. I was surprised at how quickly the instructors went through the steps but after a few attempts it was easy to pick up. I mean, I was rigid and awkward but I didn’t step on any toes. I think that’s a success! The guys stood in a circle and the girls would dance with one and the move on to the next after performing a certain move (very basic moves!). One guy, who later told me he was actually another teacher, laughed at my “furrowed brow of concentration”. Well I was concentrating! I might need to aim to not try and look at my feet the entire time I suppose… I’m keen to try a few more lessons, but we’ll see!

Then Saturday morning was going to be the Cheltenham parkrun. Annoyingly though I woke up to -5 temperatures and a Tweet from my Cheltenham-based friend saying it was cancelled. I’m very grateful for his Tweet (thanks Mat!) as otherwise I would have just gone there without checking and then been disappointed and very cold. So instead, a bit of shopping happened instead. I re-planned the run to be after lunch so I had a nice light Greek salad lunch in Patisserie Valerie, which I’ve never been to before but was really lovely (though can I just say, the salads are not filling for lunch. Not for me anyway. I was still hungry and would easily have had one of their very tasty looking cakes afterwards had I not needed to be careful of my run later).

I hate leaving my run until later but realistically it made sense with fitting it in the weekend and the fact that in the morning the paths everywhere were so icy and dangerous. I’m pretty sure I spent quite a significant portion of Saturday cold. At first I thought I was going to wear my compression socks and shorts but after feeling so cold all day I decided to go with leggings and compression socks. Luckily my leggings were long enough to cover my knees so I didn’t have that awkward knee exposure look 😉The run went well. I didn’t really intend to go very fast but as I was so cold I just wanted to get warm so I pushed the pace. I got to two miles and found I was really struggling though and thought maybe best to slow down a bit! I slowed a little and told myself I could take it easier.It did feel good to get a bit of a tempo run on as I had intended to blast parkrun that morning. I’d heard that Cheltenham parkrun was really flat and I was sad I missed out on seeing what time I could currently do. It wouldn’t have been crazy fast but it’s always nice to have a “check in” run to see what paces I’m hitting. I need it have a long think about how I’m going to approach Tokyo and this would have been handy. But I got in a longer run and was able to pick up the pace so that was good. I guess that just means another trip to Cheltenham to eventually do their parkrun! 😉

I ran around Pittville Park which is where the parkrun is located anyway and it was a really lovely run. I did a couple of laps and aside from dodging dog walkers and small children it was a perfect runner’s route next to a lovely lake (pond?) and trees.

That evening I saw the new M Night Shyamalan film, Split, with James McAvoy in it. It was brilliant. Well, I know that his films have never reached the lofty success of the Sixth Sense but I actually really like his films (though there are a select few I haven’t seen like Lady in the Water and the Light Bender thing…). I loved The Village, Signs, Unbreakable and The Happening. And I love James McAvoy. There also might have been a tub of Ben and Jerry’s (Cookie Dough) that was snuck into the cinema…thankfully outside was cold enough for it not to melt prematurely in my handbag!

The next day I left to drive home and, because I needed to get a long run in, decided that I would do it as soon as I got in to stop any temptation to avoid it. I also cleverly bought a whole chicken from Waitrose from a services and popped that in the oven so when I got back it was pretty much done and my flat smelt amazing.The run went really well. My shin only very slightly niggled (progress, progress). I was worried that having run the day before might cause my shin an issue but it felt alright. I also felt really good in terms of my fitness. I effortlessly remained around the 8min pace without feeling it was a push so that was comforting.I won’t be running at that speed for the marathon but it was nice to feel comfortable for 10 miles at that pace. I planned my route so that it was my usual 6 mile route and then another usual 4 mile route so I could break it up in my head. It worked perfectly. Then I got home and enjoyed carving up the freshly cooked chicken. A food coma promptly commenced 😉

When do you prefer to get your runs/workouts done? I always prefer the morning.

Have you ever been to Cheltenham before?

Have you ever done a salsa/dance class?

Shrewsbury parkrun – number 20 parkrun tourism

I finished work on Thursday night and was on holiday for a week and a day, woohoo! On Friday I was driving up to Bishop’s Castle with my parents (it’s just under an hour from Shrewsbury). One of the reasons Chester Marathon worked so well for me was because my parents were going to see my grandparents for the week and stay in a holiday cottage (they had the upstairs apartment and my parents had the downstairs one) and they’d invited me to join. The locations and timings worked perfectly.

What also worked perfectly was the fact that I could do another new-to-me parkrun as well on the Saturday. Though there wasn’t one in very close proximity to Bishop’s Castle, Shrewsbury wasn’t too far away. My dad was happy to drive and support me (as always, bless him). It wasn’t too early a morning either which was nice. Up at 7am and on the road by 7.30am. We got to Shrewsbury in enough time to find a car park just across the road from Quarry Park where the parkrun was located.

In my head I assumed it would look like an actual quarry but it was actually a really beautiful park with lots of trees, grass, lovely winding paths and right next to River Severn.

shrewsbury-parkrun-1The top left picture is where we parked the car just outside the church hall

It was raining and cold. Distinctly autumnal morning. I reminded myself to warm-up and did a few loops round the park. This was mainly because I was so cold and wanted to feel human again.shrewsbury-parkrun-2The parkrun crew were setting everything up and I was getting slowly more wet. I had no time goals but I wasn’t going to hold myself back. A faster paced parkrun has helped previously the day before races so I’m happy to stretch my legs, knowing I won’t be going anywhere near those paces the next day!img_0811

The course sounded a little confusing but better than a five lapper! It was one lap of the top of the park and then an out and back along the river before doing the first lap again and then back along the river to the finishing funnel. Nice and varied I thought.

The first part of the course went down a fairly steep decline which with the wet ground was a little precarious… I was slightly worried I’d slip.shrewsbury-parkrun

Photo credit: Colin Williamson

Then it was off along the flat. I felt quite comfortable with the pace I was going though annoyingly my calf was a bit tight. It seems a recurring thing for me when it gets to high mileage that my left calf starts to grumble. But it was just a mild discomfort rather than pain so I wasn’t panicking (OK that’s a lie, I will always panic when some part of my body feels anything but perfect when I near a big race but I was confident it wasn’t serious).

Then we curved back up to go past the start again. There was a fairly nasty incline (to match the previous decline I suppose) but it wasn’t too bad. It was still raining but I was feeling warmer, though my hands weren’t.img_5517My dad cheered me on and it was back down the decline and off along the river. This was lovely and flat and I gained some speed. It was a nice pace actually. Surprisingly I didn’t feel the “Omg how much longer?” pain but rather a comfortable tolerance of the pain.

It was nice knowing exactly what I had left as I came back down the path from the out-and-back. I really enjoyed the variety of the course.img_5522I’m really pleased with how I felt during this run. Albeit a slightly niggling calf, I enjoyed the burst of speed and didn’t feel like I was dying. Always a plus!img_5425

My time was 21:41 which blew my mind as I haven’t broken 22 minutes since March. The course was good it must be said but I can’t believe how comfortable it felt. A photographer was standing at the end of the finisher’s funnel so the photo he got of me was literally just after I’d finished.photo-credit-colin-williamson

Photo credit: Colin Williamson

The finishing area next to the River Severn was so picturesque, even in the rain.img_5501Then we made quick haste to get back to the car and then to find somewhere for brunch to warm-up.img_5503We found a lovely little cafe/restaurant called The Loopy Shrew (love that name) and we both ordered a English breakfast (subbing the hasbrowns for extra tomatoes because we’re so healthy ;-)).img_5526It was honestly one of the best fry-ups I’ve ever had. I love that they separated the baked beans in a little bowl as I hate beans touching my eggs. The black pudding was to die for. And the service was fantastic. The bacon was super crispy and it wasn’t swimming in a pool of grease. Lovely.

The rest of the day was fairly relaxed. We wandered around Bishop’s Castle, despite it being rather drizzly and cold. I couldn’t believe it was forecasted to be lovely and sunny the next day!img_5529And in the evening we had a nice meal in another pub (I didn’t need lunch after my mammoth breakfast!). I had a very taste starter of sardines (random I know but nice) and a goat’s cheese and sun-dried tomato salad with a side of sweet potato fries because #carbs 😉pre-marathon-mealAnd because I needed more carbs I had a brownie with ice cream for pudding. SO good.

And then it was off to bed for an early-ish night before the marathon the next day!

What’s your favourite restaurant starter?

Do you like running in the rain?

Favourite brunch foods?

Post-Boston Marathon and Cape Cod

Just to follow-up my Boston posts, I’ll quick recap of post-marathon and the fun my mum and me had in Cape Cod (every time I type this I want to say Cape Town…not Africa, Anna, AMERICA).

After finishing the marathon and chilling for a bit in Starbucks we grabbed a bit of lunch…

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The world’s biggest salad; it had everything in there from feta to chicken to beetroot to broccoli. It’s what I was absolutely craving. Big indulgences would come later when my stomach felt more up to it.

After this we made the long walk back to the harbour to catch the water taxi back to the hotel. My legs felt tired but generally OK which I was pleased with (though my hamstring was very tight). As we were walking so many random people congratulated me – and people who hadn’t even been near the race. From older people to teenagers, everyone had a kind word for me.

As I was only wrapped up in a foil blanket over my shorts and vest I was starting to get very cold. I had such a craving for a hot drink that we stopped in another Starbucks on the way back (a takeaway decaf, more just something warm for me to drink than anything). As I stood in line with my mum the woman behind leaned over us and said “this one’s on me” and handed the barista the money. I was shocked. She said “you’ve earnt it, amazing job”. It was such a nice thing to do!

As we continued on our way I was still clutching the goodie bag I’d received, which was packed full of really random food, like a bread roll, a protein drink, crisps and other snacks. I knew I wouldn’t need any of it and it felt like such a waste throwing it away. A homeless woman congratulated me and it made me think. I asked her if she wanted some of my snacks from my goodie bag and she was over the moon. I gave a few more items to another equally chuffed homeless person and my mum promptly burst into tears saying “I’ve raised a good’un!”. Bless her.

IMG_0297My finisher’s top and medal

That evening we ate in the hotel restaurant again because honestly the thought of going anywhere else just didn’t appeal. I once again had chicken wings, this time with a delicious blue cheese dip and a cheese sharing platter with my mum.

IMG_0300Yes I’m wearing my medal, and I wasn’t the only one!

The next morning we checked out of the hotel, picked up our rental car and drove down to Cape Cod. We stopped half-way at Plymouth to break the journey up a bit (it was about two hours). I knew there was Plymouth Rock to see so though it might be a nice place to have a look around. It was really windy and quite cold though.

Plymouth Rock

We actually randomly stumbled upon the rock and were, well, a little disappointed as it was very small and not much to it. We moseyed about for a while and then decided we’d carry on. Plymouth was a little bit dull I must say (though we were in the off-season I hasten to add).

We arrived in Hyannis, Cape Cod, a it later and checked into our hotel. Cape Cod

The main street with restaurants, shops and also the harbour and beach were only a short walk away which was handy. At this point we were quite hungry. And lo and behold, a restaurant so perfectly fitting to my post-marathon runger… a Brazilian rodizio all-you-can-eat. Hello, heaven.

Brazilian Grill

There was a huge salad bar which I used to load up my plates with salad and veggie – let’s not weigh myself down with unnecessary carbs after all! Winking smile And the waiters came round with all different types of meat to carve for you. It was delicious. My mum even enjoyed herself (it’s not really her thing but she indulged me in my post-marathon haze). My only sadness was the lack of ribs *sobs*.

Needless to say dinner wasn’t necessary. But we did go out for a nice drink in a local bar. Originally I was just going to have a diet Coke but my mum ordered a margarita and I saw you could have it iced, like a Slush Puppy, so I decided to go for it.

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I don’t usually drink that much at all. I don’t hugely enjoy it – though I do like the odd Prosecco or G&T. But it’s rare. Anyway the alcoholic Slush Puppy was delicious and went down a treat.

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In fact, it went down a little too well. I found it very drinkable because of all the ice and found that over half-way through it I was feeling a little drunk. Seriously. How much of a light-weight am I! My mum found it ever so amusing. I was off in my own little tipsy world giggling over nothing. My mum couldn’t drink her non-iced margarita as it was too strong and though I had a few sips of hers (I think that’s it in the photo above) I declined to finish it otherwise she’d have been carrying me home! It was a fun evening though.

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The rest of our time in Cape Cod was spent driving to different towns and places and basically just chilling. Things were a lot more relaxed than they were in Boston, especially with no longer having an impending marathon hanging over us. We went to Provincetown, the furthest point of Cape Cod, which had lots of quirky shops. We also spent some time in Chatham, which my mum adored (lots of linen clothing and home décor shops) where the only interesting shop I found for me was a chocolate shop (easily pleased). But it was very pretty and peaceful.

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I unashamedly spent $10 on a bag of ‘misfit’ chocolates, which I then promptly munched through as my mum went in yet another linen shop.

One day we went to Falmouth where we had some delicious cake and tea in an American tea-room. Though it was delicious, it was a very odd setting. I think they were trying to get the whole British tea-room vibe going but it just seemed a little strange with the décor and it being almost a restaurant. I don’t think it translated well.

Falmouth tea room

The cakes however did translate perfectly into being TASTY. I had lemon and my mum had carrot. All the about that icing (frosting!).

We then headed over to Martha’s Vineyard on the ferry.

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It was such a beautiful sunny day we were very lucky! Martha’s Vineyard is a small island off of Cape Cod and for movie geeks like myself, the home to Jaws. Though sadly I didn’t get to see the famous Jaws bridge as it was just too far out. We had a lovely time regardless, going into the shops, having an iced coffee (Boston seems to go mad for iced coffees, they were everywhere) and seeing all the beautiful “gingerbread” houses.

Gingerbread houses

It’s basically a large collection of summer houses that people can live in when they go on holiday. But as it was the off-season there was no one living there and it was very quiet and actually quite eerie. It was like a mini village of ghost houses. It kind of put us at unease! But pretty nonetheless.

Anyway, we had a fantastic time in Cape Cod. It was the perfect place to chill out after the busyness of the marathon and the hubbub of the city. I ate lots, walked lots and shopped lots. It was such a great holiday. Sadly I found no ribs at all, but I did eat chicken wings no less than FIVE times.

IMG_0388Not even all the chicken wings I ate

They were just so tasty. America definitely does them right! And I found more cake, of course Winking smile and the biggest side of sweet potato fries I’ve ever seen at the Cheesecake Factory (our last meal before we flew back) – an entire large bowl of them! Even I couldn’t finish them.

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I loved spending the time with my mum – neither of us wanted to kill the other one so that’s a bonus Winking smile

And now life is back to reality…

Have you ever been to Cape Cod?

What food do you love to have on holiday?

Are you a beach or city lover?

Boston Marathon Expo and the days before

Where do I even start?? [Warning: long post alert] So I’m back from Boston. I got back Saturday morning (about 2am Boston time, 7am UK time). Saturday was a tough day staying awake! The flight time was only around 6.5 hours so it’s not fully overnight. But anyway, I’m back and feeling more human (just). I haven’t finished my race recap of Boston yet so that’ll come (hopefully) towards the end of this week. So for now I’ll recap the days leading up to it.

My mum and me flew to Boston Friday early afternoon. I watched two films (Spotlight and The Big Short – both really good. Spotlight was especially interesting as it’s set in Boston). I do love long-haul flights for their movies!

IMG_9972Flight selfie

We arrived in the afternoon Boston time (Boston is 5 hours behind the UK). We were staying in the Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor. I’d booked through the Boston Marathon so got a discounted price and as it was connected to the marathon the hotel knew lots of information and themed the weekend for the runners (free yoga Saturday morning, free water taxi to Boston mainland on Monday, carb-based meals in the restaurant, etc.). They even put a finish line on the floor.

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The hotel was located very close to the airport which was very handy (and had a free shuttle) though we were, as I mentioned, a water taxi ride from Boston proper. At first I thought this was annoying but actually it was lovely. The views from the restaurant were phenomenal.

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We had such good views of the Boston skyline and a lovely path to walk along the water.

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As we were tired we didn’t fancy getting the water taxi over and hunting for somewhere to eat. We caught an Uber (honestly, this app blew my mind – it’s like magic!) and went to Angela’s Cafe, in East Boston, which I’d seen on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and I’d also been heartily recommended by Anthony Rodriguez, a member of the DDD team.Angelas Cafe

As we weren’t hugely hungry we kept it simple with a soup for my mum and a chicken salad for me. We also had a HUGE stone bowl of guacamole and tortilla chips. Heavenly! I was worried that the place would be a bit ‘off-beat- for my mum but she loved it. Honestly the food was awesome and so fresh! The restaurant was very small but clearly a local favourite. I wish we could have gone back there to fully try out some of the other food but sadly we didn’t have time.

The next morning we got up early as we were jetlagged and had an early breakfast in the hotel before catching the water taxi over. The water taxi took less than eight minutes and was a lovely way to travel as the views were great.

IMG_0147Another cheeky selfie

It was a bit chilly and windy but otherwise lovely and sunny. Our mission was to head straight to the marathon expo first to get that done. We used the metro system, the “T”, and then followed all the other marathoners to the convention centre. It was easy to spot runners – they were everywhere and most of them either carrying a map that came with the marathon info or wearing Boston marathon clothing. It was very exciting.

IMG_0007Some firemen were stood watching the 5k ear their fire station and I couldn’t not say hello to their adorable Dalmatian

We stopped a few times to take photos of course. The Boston 5k was going on at that time so there was lots going on.

We found the expo and headed straight to the bib pick-up area. We were actually slightly early as they hadn’t even started giving out the bibs yet. But we only had a few minutes to wait – our timing was awesome.Boston ExpoThe expo was great. Similar to Berlin where there were large areas of different companies selling running-related stuff. As Adidas were the clothing sponsor for the marathon they got the largest area and I was literally in heaven.Boston expo 1

I decided to treat myself to some Boston merchandise because it was all so lovely and I wanted a few items with Boston Marathon 2016 on. It was expensive though as you can imagine! I decided to go for a black Adidas jacket and a blue tank top. There were the traditional blue jackets but I found the colours quite garish, though so many people were going for them and we’d see them everywhere the days after.

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We carried on moseying about but I didn’t buy anything else. It was starting to get busy so we headed out to start a day of shopping, something we were both excited about. My mum, bless her, was wonderful joining me in the expo and I could see her getting into the excitement of it all as she was beginning to realise just how big a deal running Boston was to the US.

We got to the shops just as they were opening. We mainly stuck to the Prudential Centre, which is basically a mall with an observatory on the top floor (it’s a huge skyscraper).

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Though we were tempted by the observatory and seeing the city from so high we were too distracted by shops Winking smile

I found a Lululemon and almost bought one of their swiftly tops which I’d be hankering over for ages on the Internet. It’s so expensive for basically a long-sleeved running top but it’s such a lovely fit and lovely material. It also had “Boston 2016” on the back. In the end I decided not to buy it (MISTAKE).

After lots of of shopping we started to feel hungry so decided to try out the Cheesecake Factory as it was close by, relatively inexpensive and easy. It was ridiculously busy everywhere now (runners everywhere). We had a 20 minute wait but we decided it was worth it as everywhere else was rammed. We’d never been to a Cheesecake factory before so it was a new experience.

Cheesecake Factory

I couldn’t believe all the cheesecakes and cake that were in the display cabinet. It was amazing! As we instantly knew we were going to have cheesecake for pudding, we decided to be a bit sensible and have a light salad for lunch.

Cheesecake Factory lunch

The salad was delicious, with goat’s cheese and chicken. But obviously the cheesecake was the winner here. It was ginormous.

Red velvet cheesecake

I went for the Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake while my mum went for the Salted Caramel Cheesecake. I’d love to say that I couldn’t eat all of it but that would be a lie. I’m such a greedy cake monster that I polished the entire thing off. I felt ridiculously full afterwards of course but I fully enjoyed it! That cheesecake will forever haunt my dreams now…it was so good. My mum, being a far more reasonable human being, couldn’t finish hers. Luckily the waitress took it away quickly as I was eyeing it up. God.

I rationalised that as the marathon was on Monday I could enjoy my eating on the Saturday but on the Sunday I’d be more sensible. In theory. During the meal we chatted away to two ladies who were running the marathon the next day in the table near us. It was incredible, everywhere there were marathoners.

We did a bit more shopping and sightseeing then headed back, by walking this time, to the harbour area. We decided to go back to the hotel to chill for a bit and then head out again for dinner that evening. We made sure to book somewhere before we got the water taxi back as it was so busy. We booked dinner for a lot later as obviously we were stuffed!

The next day I got up with the intentions of doing a shakeout run. I asked at reception where I could do this and they provided me with a handy hand-size map that showed different options – a longer 6+ mile run or a shorter three mile run. This was fantastic! I eyeballed it for a while then decided I knew where to go for my three miler. It basically ran alongside the water so it was lovely and scenic.

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In true Anna standard, I did get lost. But amazingly I managed to find my way back and run exactly three miles! I saw lots of runners about and we all smiled and waved at each other.

Then my mum and me had breakfast again in the hotel. The breakfast at the hotel was lovely; it was a buffet-style affair but you could order off the menu as well. I ordered a bacon, cheese and lobster omelette to have alongside my oatmeal and black coffee.

Hyatt Harbor Hotel Breakfast

This set me up nicely for another day of walking around Boston. We decided to follow the Freedom Trail, which would take in the main historic sights of Boston on foot. It was quite fun as we used an app on our phone which would tell us information about each thing we saw and it was a bit like an Easter egg hunt trying to find the different things.

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Basically red bricks would guide you to each different place and there would be a plaque giving information about different buildings and places. The app helped though giving a map and some context (you could use it offline).Freedom Trail BostonNot knowing a huge amount of American history (or barely any…) it was quite interesting. It also helped us get a good bearing on the city. This was really helpful for me as the next day, marathon Monday, I’d need to get myself to the Boston Common ridiculously early on my own from the hotel (catching the water taxi, then walking about a mile) to catch the shuttle buses to the start of the marathon, 26-something miles away from Boston.

BostonWhoops, my mum cut off George Washington’s head!

We walked down Newbury Street which was teeming with people. The sun was shining and it was a lovely day. We found a lovely little Italian restaurant, called Trattoria, for a light lunch.

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Again I had a salad with chicken and goat’s cheese (I know what I like!). It was delicious and the atmosphere was lovely. We chatted to a table next to us who’s dad was running the marathon for the seventh time. It was great to chat to someone who had done it.

We did a bit more shopping in the Prudential Centre and I decided to go back to Lululemon to buy that top I’d seen the day before. Alas though they’d sold out of the Boston 2016 one… I was fairly grumpy but tried on a load of stuff and decided to treat myself (I had gone with a shopping budget) to a few things. Lululemon is expensive but the quality is good. I treated myself to two jackets and the swiftly top sans the “Boston 2016” on the back. (It wasn’t until later on when I checked the receipt I realised they hadn’t charge me for one of the jackets. Though I had watched the sales person ring them up and fold them! Unknowingly I’d walked out of the shop without them charging me for a £90 jacket!! My lucky day it seems! My mum joked that we could now never go back to that shop).

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I also treated myself to a few Nike items (one long sleeved top and a tank top with Boston on it and personalised with my name – for free!).

We checked out the finish line as well – which was ridiculously busy.

Boston marathon 2016 finish lineThe Marathon Daffodils were lined up all along the streets and outside shops

We then spent some time around Quincy Market as well, which again was just heaving with activity. So many people! It was mental. In fact the entire day we couldn’t move for runners running everywhere or just people wearing Boston marathon jackets or just lycra-clad people. Everyone looked super fit and healthy. It seemed the whole city knew about the marathon. In shops the staff would be talking about it, wondering whether to go down and watch it (it’s a holiday for them on the Monday) and people would ask if you were running it. Though it was nice, it was making me exceptionally nervous. My hamstring had been really tight for a few days and I was so worried it would cause me issues. I could feel it when I ran that morning – not pain, just a tightness. I was worried about all those hills. My mum, bless her, did her best to calm me down.

Quincy Market is full of restaurants, food stalls and shops. We wandered around for a bit and then I spotted someone with a chocolate covered apple. Where was this!? I soon found a stall inside the market hall and bought one immediately.

IMG_0182 Nothing calms me more than apples Winking smile

We had already decided to eat a meal in the restaurant that evening as it was easy and I didn’t want to have too late a night. The hotel’s restaurant was very posh and looked out onto the harbour. We’d booked in the morning (or so we thought) and at 7.30pm arrived for our table. They looked confused and said there was no reservation. We clearly saw a woman write down our names, our room number and our time that morning so we were a bit annoyed. Especially as we had nowhere else to go really for dinner (without stress) and it was fairly important I ate a good meal. It was busy though and I started to get nervous.

Thankfully the hostess was very apologetic and got us a table and told us our appetisers would be covered, which was a lovely touch (and quite appreciated as the menu was quite expensive!). So it actually worked in our favour. Boringly I went for a salad for my main as I wanted to keep things simple but I just could not resist the chicken wings for my starter.

Hyatt Boston Harbor

The chicken wings fully rocked my world. As a starter there were LOADS. It was pretty much a main meal (for a normal person). Perhaps not my wisest choice before a marathon but they were bloody awesome. And you know I love my salads Winking smile

And then we headed to bed. Saturday and Sunday we’d walked over 30,000 steps each day. I was shattered. I knew this was a bad move before the marathon but at the same time, we had a great time and I would rather be busy and walking than sat contemplating the next day. It also helped me fall asleep quickly and deeply both nights.

And then the marathon…

What expos have you been to before?

Have you ever been to Boston?

Do you do a lot of walking the days before a big race?

Reykjavik, Iceland – part 2

Gosh this feels a long time ago now! If you missed Part 1 catch it HERE. Continuing on my Iceland holiday recap then, on Sunday morning I had just finished my lovely (pain free, smooth) 13.1 miles around Reykjavik.

My next tour was called Inside The Volcano. In true Anna style I hadn’t realised I’d double-booked myself for the Saturday. I’d booked both the Golden Circle and the volcano tour for Saturday and only realised when I received an email on Friday saying that due to the bad weather they needed to move the tour to Sunday instead. Erm…so no change then from what I thought I had booked! How lucky am I!?

It’s not a cheap tour at all, but I would say it’s worth it. We were driven out in a mini-bus to a building literally in the middle of nowhere. We were given a brief that we were to hike about two miles across the volcanic fields to the base camp next to the volcano, Thrihnukagigur. The volcano had been discovered in 1974 and has been dormant for 4,000 years. We were offered more waterproofs if we wanted them (I called them Minion suits; they were bright yellow huge anorak things). I was fine as I was though – the website gives a clear itinerary of what you’re in for so you can properly prepare.

Inside Volcano tour

You can see the minions behind 😉

The hike was tough going as it was so windy across the flat fields and it rained sporadically. But it was fun and beautiful.

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We followed a guide who was really informative of the local landscape and history. I asked her how many times a day she hikes there and back and she said three! But she loves it – I mean who wouldn’t!

When we got to the base camp building we were given unlimited hot drinks which was lovely! We were split into groups of four-five (I think there were about 20 of us in total) and taken to the volcano in our groups. This is great for safety reasons and to help protect the volcano, of which they were very keen to do. We weren’t allowed to take any of the rock from the volcano back with us, understandably.

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By now it was really windy and the trek up to the volcano itself was one of the scariest things I’ve done, I won’t lie. The path up to it had one rope as a fence along the side and then sudden death on the other side. Imagine Frodo and Sam climbing Mount Doom with no helpful eagles. It was a health and safety nightmare I can tell you.

One of the girls in my group shouted over the wind she’d never been so glad to weigh as much as she did before as it anchored her more to the ground. A slight girl and myself however clung on for dear life as we were almost blown away! I genuinely feared for my life. We then had to walk across a very rickety bridge to get to the lift thing (but thankfully we were strapped on with a harness at this point).

The lift down to the volcano took about six minutes. The area underneath the lift was fenced off and called the iPhone drop zone as so many people had dropped there phones trying to take photos as the lift descended which was obviously dangerous to the people below.

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My photos don’t do the volcano any justice. There were so many colours in the rock, it was beautiful. The colours came from silicon, iron, sulphur and copper. It was very cold down there but so still. There are rocks everywhere and you can climb about and touch the sides. It was fascinating.

After a good amount of time, we headed back up and battled the wind to come back down to the base camp. I was fully ready for some hot soup after that!! There was a veggie option and a lamb option. I went for lamb and, as before, it was delicious.

Outside, just casually chilling out in the very cold and windy conditions was Mr Frosty, the base camp leader’s dog.

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At first I thought he was a wolf but thankfully not, just a lovely dog.

The hike back was easier as the wind had dropped and I chatted away to our tour guide, Sigun. Her boyfriend was a runner and had run the Berlin marathon! I asked her about the Reyjavik marathon and she said that in the past few years Iceland had had a boom of running. Very cool.

That evening it took me a good while to warm up again. I had a hot shower and it felt divine. I was also very ready for a good hearty meal after my run and the hike. I found a fab restaurant called the Public House which was very quirky inside. It was kind of like tapas in that you ordered a few smaller dishes.

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Or sit there with your Kindle…

It had a buzzing atmosphere and I felt a little sad to be on my own. I found it tough to choose from the menu as there were so many tasty-sounding things on it and I had no one to bounce back my thoughts to. I asked the waitress a few things about my choices and she was really helpful. When you’re on your own you need someone to discuss these things with!

Public House Iceland

I chose three plates and honestly they all rocked my world. I had reindeer tataki (basically very quickly seared) with Icelandic blue cheese. I did feel bad for eating Rudolf but the waitress recommended it. For my second dish I had a beef slider with chipotle sauce and bacon with fries. It looks like a full-sized burger (and though I kinda wished it was) it was a mini-burger. The final dish was the best. It was slow cooked lamb in an “Ástarpungur” (an Icelandic doughnut) with apricot jam. It had the right balance of sweet and savoury and was DELICIOUS.

I asked the waitress what I should have for pudding and she recommended the Mexican chocolate cake.

Mexican chocolate cake

The lighting was rubbish, apologies. Basically it was chocolate cake kind of dismantled into a heap of crispy and delicious crumbs, with ice cream and marshmallow fluff. Dear god that was good. Calorie deficit defeated 😉

Monday morning I was off for some horse riding on an Icelandic horse. The riding tour is called Islenski Hesturinn and the raves on TripAdvisor are amazing. And I can confirm true!

Begga, the owner, was hilarious, informative and clearly hugely passionate about what she does. She really made the tour. She went through in a good amount of detail what to expect, what we needed to do and instilled a good sense of confidence in us, even to those who it was their first horse riding experience.

Icelandic horses are different in that they are smaller and have additional gaits, whereas ‘normal’ horses only have the standard walk, trot, canter/gallop. We got to experience the tölt, which is similar to trotting in speed but a whole lot more comfortable. No bouncing! Islenski Hesturinn

Minion trousers were offered of which I was grateful for as my leggings would have gotten soaked

Despite it raining and being rather cold, the horse riding was so much fun. Begga took loads of photos of us which was great, so we could just sit back and enjoy ourselves. My horse was lovely and the scenery was, as always, beautiful.

As part of my tour I got a voucher for a meal at a “healthy eating restaurant”. The restaurant was called Gló and it was amazing! Raw, vegan, and gluten-free options…they had it all! Obviously I went for the Mexican chicken though 😉

Gló Restaurant

With each meal you get a choice of four salads as sides. I had a beetroot one and a sweet potato one and I can’t remember the other two, but it was SO good. I followed it up with a slice of rhubarb and blueberry cake and a Swiss coffee (like a mocha but thicker with Belgian chocolate). Yep. Pretty damn good as you can imagine.

In the interest of keeping things short(er) now… the rest of my trip (as in the rest of Monday and Tuesday morning before I flew back) was fairly low-key as I had no more tours planned. It gave me a chance to do lots of walking around Reykjavik, looking at the shops and sights.Reykjavik

Iceland seems to be full of very cool people. The shops are funky, modern and selling quirky (albeit expensive) items. There was beautiful and interesting graffiti everywhere, interesting sculptures dotted about the place and a rainbow painted on the ground left over from the Gay Pride celebration.

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I spent some time chilling, reading magazines and using the WIFI (which was everywhere by the way) in a very quirky cafe/restaurant called The Laundromat Cafe. The décor was very retro and there was a genuine laundromat downstairs.

Reyjkavik

On Tuesday I ran another four miles in the morning (which were just blissful) and then spent the rest of the morning walking along the coast, taking photos and listening to podcasts. I picked up a salad from a great restaurant called XO so I would have dinner later (as my flight didn’t get back until 8pm that evening). I really recommend this place as it’s very low-key and a bit cheaper. It’s further out from the main area of Reykjavik but this worked nicely for a long walk.

XO and fro-yo

I’d had a meal from there for dinner the night before (the Indian chicken salad) and it was huge and delicious so I went for the same, but take-away. Next door is a fro-yo place!! I obviously had to try it out. I didn’t hold back on toppings!

For my last sit-down meal in Reykjavik I went back to Gló because it had been so good. Then I got a transfer back to the airport. On a final note, my flight back was amazing. They had movies!! I watched Mad Max: Fury Road, which I initially thought I wouldn’t like but actually really enjoyed.

Obviously I could keep going and going, with more and more photos but I think it would be indulgent (or more indulgent) of me. Needless to say, I fully recommend Iceland as a holiday. It’s expensive but you get so much from it.

What are your top places to visit?

What’s on your bucket list of travels?

Do you like trying the local foods when on holiday?