Virtual Virgin London Marathon support crew efforts

Last weekend seemed to be a fairly busy running weekend for the running community.

The Virtual Virgin London Marathon weekend was upon us and, while I wasn’t signed up, I was going to be helping my two friends complete theirs.  When I say “help” I mean that they were coming to stay with Kyle and I and do their marathon round Portsmouth. I had plotted a 13ish mile route which the plan was for them to do twice. But more on that later.

Cortney and Emma came over Friday evening and were staying until Monday morning. It was exciting having guests stay over as having only moved into our new house at the end of May, they were our first. We had our spare bedroom all set up and so were excited.

Saturday morning we ran just over 4 miles down to Southsea to get some brunch at the Southsea Beach Cafe. Handily the route was the start of the route they’d be running on Sunday so it helped give them some familiarity of the area. I wouldn’t be running with them on Sunday…this was somewhat of an anxiety for me of them getting lost and me ruining their London Marathon so anything that helped familiarise them was good!

Anyway we met my dad for brunch as well because he was at a loose end due to my mum being away for the weekend (bless him). The weather was pretty crummy (as I’m sure the whole of Britain was aware) but luckily we managed to miss any crazy rain.

Kyle carried a running pack so we could put warmer jackets in for when we stopped which definitely helped.

For brunch I had the kippers, something a bit different for me, and shared the chorizo burrito with Kyle as well (because we’re greedy people, we know this).

The food was very tasty, but a little on the small side so we were glad to have had 1.5 dishes! But quality over quantity and all that jazz.

My dad drove Kyle back to ours, while Cortney, Emma and I walked to grab some coffees and cake. We dropped into Bread Addiction and I picked up a cinnamon roll and a croissant-style doughnut thing (I want to say cronut).

The rest of the day we did a bit of moseying about some shops, picking up food for later and then me going through the route. I was so worried they’d get lost. We put the routes on their watches and I tried to talk them through it. As a failsafe I was going to run the route ahead of them and mark it out using flour that I had put into three water bottles and would carry in my running pack. As the loop was only around 13 miles I was happy to run just one loop and then they could repeat it for the full distance.

Emma was going to run with Cortney for the first loop and their pace was going to be around 11 min/miles, and I was going to be running around 8 min/mile so I would be comfortably ahead marking the route.

The girl woke up early and did their morning marathon preparations while I (luxuriously) got to stay in bed until 7.30am, 30 minutes before we were to leave. I wasn’t going to eat beforehand as I never do so 30 minutes was enough time for me to get sorted. Kyle was staying at home, ready to help if needed if someone got lost.

He took some photos of us before we left and then we were off.

The wind was strong, the rain on and off for the start and it was cold. I knew the wind would be favourable to us though as where the wind would be most strong would be along the seafront but we’d be running with it behind us. And where it would be against us would be more sheltered away from the front, so not as bad.

I periodically marked the “course” with flour where there were turnings or crossings, hoping the rain wouldn’t wash them off the road. But they were more nudges rather than actual signs because they’d have their watches with directions that would be clear (I prayed!). I did hope people didn’t think I was graffitiing as it looked a little odd me marking the pavements.

As I got down to the seafront the wind was exactly as I thought, right behind me. This was nice but my pony tail kept slapping me in my face which was annoying. But less annoying than running into the full force of the wind, which I saw a number of runners having to deal with. It was nice to see so many runners out and so many wearing the London Marathon bibs. I cheered them all on as I passed them and it raised some smiles. I felt a little like a fraud as I wasn’t running a marathon but I still felt somewhat involved, if only tenuously.

I quite enjoyed my run until I got to the last couple of miles and the wind and rain really were horrendous. In my short-sleeved top I felt very cold. I was intermittently worrying about Emma and Cortney as well. Were they OK? Were they lost? Was the route OK for them?

I realised I could get 14 miles if I did a little add-on at the end so I did that before heading back home and getting inside quickly. Brrr! It was cold! I was so grateful that I ran my marathon the week before and that I wasn’t having to run that loop twice. The weather was just horrid.

I realised I had a message from Emma asking if I could grab her a spare jacket and give it to her for the second loop. I found the jacket that I thought she meant and then ran back down to where she’d be. Unfortunately it wasn’t the jacket she meant but she put it on anyway as she was so sodden and cold. She had parted from Cortney a few miles ago. She decided to run down to Southsea and back as she mentally couldn’t face the loop again. I headed back home – now having added an extra mile on to my total distance.

I then had the best shower of my life – burning my skin to red raw I imagine, but so necessary. While I was showering I heard Kyle talking to someone. Turned out Cortney had come back for some spare clothes too and was heading back out again at a slower pace. Her foot (which had been problematic before the marathon) was hurting. She was in very good spirits though!

After showering and eating a steaming bowl of porridge, Kyle and I headed out to walk to cheer Emma on. Handily we had her on the Find My Friends app so we were able to find her and cheer her on as she headed back.

Now the rain was relentless and I felt so very sorry for them being outside – it was bad enough just walking in it.

Emma finished in just over 4hrs 30 and Cortney in 5 hours 50. Bless them both, they were cold, soaked but victorious. They did incredibly! I was sorry that the route hadn’t been better for them but I think the terrible weather had been the main issue (let’s be honest, Portsmouth is Portsmouth – not much I can do there).

After everyone had showered and warmed up we drove down to The Tenth Hole to pick up very much deserved cake. I went for the vegan chocolate strawberry cake which was DIVINE. I love The Tenth Hole for their very generous (Anna-friendly) sized slabs of cake. No issues for me finishing!

So a big congratulations to Emma and Cortney for battling not only terrible weather conditions but the streets of Portsmouth to complete their Virtual London Marathon. I was glad to be involved to celebrate their achievements. Doing a virtual marathon is something so crazy… no crowds, no amazing London sights, no aid stations, no big atmosphere, no volunteers to hang a medal round your neck at the end. But I think VLM did an amazing job in creating a community and doing the best alternative possible. So bug kudos to you all who ran it!

Did you run the Virtual London Marathon?

Have you ever run a virtual race?

Celebrating good runs with burgers

It’s incredible how different runs can be.

A couple of weekends ago I was knocked down by a bug. I feel like whenever anyone mentions feeling unwell everyone immediately assumes it’s COVID-19 related. Happily mine was just a bug that made me feel a bit lethargic and meh with a bit of a dodgy tummy. Alfie and Kyle actually had similar issues as well – can dogs get ill from you (or vice versa)?! It was very weird, for two days he kept sporadically throwing up, which was just lovely.

I didn’t actually realise I was feeling ill though until I got back from a very unwise long run. I woke up in the morning without being aware that I felt different, then headed out and it just felt so hard. Half-way through I had a little sit down on the curb and just had to take stock of the fact that I was 5 miles from home without any easy way to get back (Kyle’s motorbike had a flat battery and he can’t actually drive our car yet).  In the end I managed to claw my way home. On finishing I felt so drained.

After a few days though I was back to normal and my runs felt SO much better. I decided to leave the speedwork (check me out being all routine-like with my speedwork now) and just do some “whatever I fancy” running to make sure I wasn’t pushing my body when it was just back to normal. Then at the weekend I headed out for my long run without any real ideas of how far I was going to go. I have a great route that I can basically cut short very easily… from 6 miles all the way to 15 miles. I have easy points to add on and take-away.

As I headed out I realised I felt pretty good and decided to go for a longer run. My pace was strong and I felt full of energy. The weather was perfect with barely any wind (such a problem with living on the coast!) and it was relatively cool. In the end I did 17 miles which just felt great and has tempted me to consider running another marathon on my own in a few weeks… Rotterdam  Marathon is doing a virtual one in October so I’ll see how it goes. But I’m putting no pressure on myself.

After running the 17 miles, I got showered and Kyle and I walked down to 7Bone for some lunch. The fact that we can walk to 7Bone is dangerous indeed. I mean I love that we can walk to some fantastic favourites of ours but it can’t be good for our wallets and health!

7Bone were fantastic. They took our temperature before we went inside and had hand sanitizer EVERYWHERE – even on your table. We felt very well looked after and safe. The food, of course, was fantastic too.

Both Kyle and I went for the Winner Winner chicken burger and added an extra halloumi patty and had halloumi fries on the side too. Kyle went for loaded cheesy fries and I went for some Rasta chicken wings. It was a feast! The burger is honestly one of the best chicken burgers I’ve had. Though the chicken wings are always a bit disappointing. But then you don’t go to 7Bone for the wings.

We then walked home – which definitely helped our fullness.

The next day I went for a very gentle 5k and then headed to meet my mum in Southsea for coffee.

It was a lovely mum and daughter time. We had a drink in the Watkins & Faux, a tennis themed café, on the seafront and then walked along the Southsea parade. My mum had a tasty chocolate milkshake and I had a cappuccino.

A solid weekend full of good food and good times (and good health!).

Have you ever run when you felt ill?

Have you been tempted by any virtual races recently?

Old favourites and getting some structure into my running

A lot to catch up on recently…

So firstly, I’ve become a bit green fingered in our new house (and garden). I never thought this day would come. I’ve never been interested in plants or flowers before but now I’m loving that we have a beautiful little garden. I’ve planted some flowers, got some lovely little house plants and I’m carefully looking after them.

I’m trying really hard to not let them die, reading up on how to care for them and watering them as often as they should be. Who’d have thought some don’t like too much watering and some get very sad without it (my temperamental little peace lily drooped significantly when I forgot about him for a bit).

Well anyway, it’s bringing me great joy, much to my parent’s and Kyle’s amusement as I’ve never shown such an interest before.

The other weekend we also had a very lovely visit from my friend Emma. She popped down from Reading for a run and some brunch. Originally we’d planned 14 miles but when it came down to it neither of us were feeling it and decided to bump it down to 5 miles instead.

It was a lovely relaxed run and we were able to catch up whilst seeing the sea and enjoying some trails nearby to where I live.

Chicken, bacon, potato, cheese, coleslaw, beetroot, tomatoes, cucumber, corn, onion, salad, berries

We then walked with Kyle down to Southsea for brunch at The Parade Tearooms. I had the rather un-brunch-like Jayne Salad which was, as always, ginormous but so tasty.

We then walked to The Tenth Hole to pick out some cakes – it had to be done of course! The Bakewell slice was particularly delicious I must say. We are so lucky to live within walking distance to these places – though not close enough to be a real danger thankfully 😉

This weekend gone Kyle and I house sat/dog sat for my parents while they visited my grandparents in Wales. At first we were very happy because my parents have a hot tub (!!) and we were able to get a takeaway from our favourite Indian restaurant (honestly, I’ve never found as good an Indian as the Stubbington Tandoori).

But then during the middle of the night the happiness drained away as their dogs barked several times during the night and I had to stand in the garden at 3am while they did their business. This happened every single night we were there… it was exhausting. How my parents live with this I do not know. I couldn’t remember them being that bad when I lived there so perhaps they were sad my parents weren’t there, who knows. Either way it was ANNOYING. It also meant one morning we didn’t wake up until 10am!!

Anyway, despite these problematic sleeps, Kyle and I had a lovely 6 miles walk along the Titchfield Canal and Hill Head seafront. Thankfully we were sensible enough to put on suntan lotion as it was very sunny and warm. It was a lovely walk. Asides from running, I just really love to walk, explore and be outside (you might already know this I expect).

Sunlight making us squint

We also enjoyed a lovely 4 miles run down to the beach followed by a huge full English fry-up at the Penguin Café (another of our favourites in the area).

It was delicious. It was lovely to sit outside in the sunshine with the sea breeze and eat a ridiculously large breakfast. Then we walked the 2.5 miles back – which certainly helped the full stomach I can tell you!

Then the next day I got up and headed out for a solo long run. I really didn’t know how far I fancied going or where I wanted to go so just went with enjoying some of my favourite routes at random.

I listened to the new-to-me podcast RunPod which I’m really enjoying. Lots of good interviews with people about running and in the end did 10 miles. It felt exactly like what I needed. Not too hard, or too far, or too fast… just a nice gentle plod. I’ve started paying attention a bit more to my heart rate. I won’t say that I’m specifically training using my HR, but I definitely want to keep an eye on it. When I say I’m going to go and do an easy run I want to make sure this actually happens.

So much of my running is just one pace. I feel a bit of a fraud compared to other runners who do specific sessions. They run their easy runs easy and their hard runs hard. Whereas I just…run. Sometimes I go a bit faster, sometimes a bit slower. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it. And while I like to have a bit of freedom with my running and never want to go back to when I was going to the track every week, I do think a bit of structure would help. My motivation to run is never based on times or PB’s, but to some degree I know I need to have a bit more structure to at least keep me motivated and interested. With no races around the corner, my running is becoming a bit stale.

And on the subject of races… I was half-way through writing this post, about to say “guess what! I’ve just signed up for the Reykjavik Marathon – in like two weeks!” and was super excited. And then literally just got an email to say it’d been cancelled. That email came through mere hours after signing up.

I know I was probably too hasty to sign up with everything going on but it seemed like Iceland was fairly safe and they seemed pretty confident. *Sighs* guess not. I think Kyle and I will still go to Iceland (I was so super organised I’d booked flights and an Airbnb – yes, I KNOW, super keen). We’ll only go for a few days but hopefully it’ll be nice. I’ve been to Iceland on my own ages ago so it’ll be lovely to go back with Kyle 🙂

Are you going anywhere on holiday?

Have you got any races planned that are still going ahead?

Back to normal running and eating

I’m happy to update that my calf niggle has gone.

My runs feel back to normal and I’m slowly building up the miles again. As there are no races on the horizon it’s tricky to plan how to run right now, where I would have a peak to an end point then a rest for a bit before building back up. So I think what’s clear is that I shouldn’t just be smashing out 16-17 mile long runs every single week and plan in a cut-back week once in a while. So ideally mimicking my usual race schedule.

At the weekend Kyle and I went out for our long run on Saturday morning. I’m really loving our weekends together in our home. We set an alarm for 8.30am (so we don’t sleep too late – we have black-out curtains which are both amazing and dangerous) and then loll in bed with a cup of tea for a bit before getting up and heading out.

The long run is my favourite run of the week (whereas for Kyle…well, he’s less enthused). My plan was to run seven miles with Kyle, then he would run the final mile home, whereas I would head off for a few more miles solo. I had in my mind that I’d like to do at least 10 but see how I felt.

What’s nice about where we live is that there are lots of ways to cut back home without being stranded for miles or having to make decisions about the length of the route early on.

We ran down Southsea seafront which is lovely and flat but has no shade at all and in the beating sun it was quite hard work. While it’s lovely to be near the sea and run by it, it’s so open to the elements. When it’s windy it’s WINDY. When it’s hot it’s HOT.

As we got to where Kyle was to head off I’d pretty much decided to do 13 miles. I felt good and my calf was absolutely fine. I put on the MarathonTalk podcast and just zoned out. I had to do some quick mental maths and thoughts on the route I was going to do though while I listened. While I definitely could have just done an out and back style route I always find them so unsatisfying, so chanced it with more of a loop. I knew though it would likely be about 14 miles but I felt good so went with it. I finished the run happy, no calf issues but very hot.

Kyle and I then headed off to visit my parents and then off to Red Dog Saloon for some late lunch/early dinner. We, like everyone else, haven’t been out for food in so long. Red Dog Saloon was actually the last place we went to before lockdown happened and knew they were “on it” with their safety measures so felt safe heading back there. And as we assumed, they were. Waiting staff wore masks, tables were far enough apart etc. They sadly had a reduced menu though.

At first we were a bit worried they wouldn’t have what we wanted but turns out to get what I wanted I’d just have to order three chicken wings starters… yep.

The food was SO good. I’m  guessing because they have less on the menu they can really focus on doing the stuff they do offer really well. Honestly, it was some of the best buffalo chicken wings I’ve had in the UK! Previously they had been drenched in the buffalo sauce, which while I do love can be too overpowering and spicy, but now they were just lightly coated with such a tasty crispiness. Kyle equally enjoyed his Philly cheesesteak burger. A big thumbs up for our first meal out!

The next day we took a long walk down to Southsea with Alfie.

The weather was just perfect. Not too hot but warm and sunny enough to enjoy a quick dip in the sea with Alfie. Though it did take him some persuading to come into the water. He was very apprehensive. He’s been in water before but he’s not one of those dogs that throws himself in. He did several swims though (as long as we were in there too). Though he did look a little grumpy afterwards 😉

(And even more grumpy later when he had to have a bath).

Then we grabbed a drink and sat on the pebbles enjoying the rays. I just adore being close to the sea, it feels like being on holiday. All the smells of chips, doughnuts, coffee and suntan lotion. I love it.

We then walked back. All in all it was a 5 mile round walk. This nicely set us up for an appetite of roast pork later. I popped the meat in the oven then dashed out the door for a quick 5k (nothing makes me run faster than food, I tell you).

It’s the fastest 5k I’ve done in a while, so I was quite pleased. And a solid 29 miles for the week (a good 10 less than I was running previously before my calf issue – I’m trying to be cautious and sensible).

Then I was back in the kitchen sorting the roast out.

I rustled up home-made roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, cauliflower cheese, with veg and stuffing.

It all came together nicely. I can’t tell you how proud of myself I was! It tasted incredible (if I do say so myself…).

So a very satisfying and fun filled weekend!

Do you like roast dinners?

Do you like going to the beach?

Running in a different world

The world is certainly feeling a bit different at the moment, isn’t it?

It’s crazy and scary and sometimes overwhelming. It feels very odd to be sitting down each evening listening to the Prime Minister. It feels like we’re going through some sort of world war… except the people are on one side and nature is on the other (arguable it’s always been this way I suppose).

I’m trying my best to be sensible in all that I do… if I take Alfie for a walk, I avoid people… if I go to the shop I space myself apart from others, if I run I cross roads or give wide berths to people I pass. I just hope that we don’t get forced indoors completely. I just hope everyone follows the “rules” of social distancing.

Sadly this has meant that Kyle and I are social distancing from each other too. He lives with his family and I live with mine, and we can’t keep seeing each other (physically). One of us could take something to the other. And with my mum being a nurse, it’s just a big risk.

It involved a lot of heart ache and sadness to make this decision. I mean, technically the decision was made for us – this is bigger than us, of course. But it’s hard when you know some others aren’t being as stringent. It’s frustrating and honestly I’ve cried a few many tears and stamped my feet, got grumpy and snapped at loved ones (Kyle very much included) and then realised I can’t change anything and I also can’t risk anything. Other people might be happy to up the risk, but we can’t.

So we’ve been Facetiming, House Partying (well, attempting – I feel very old trying to work this app out) and messaging. Sending photos of silly things like what we’re having for dinner, Alfie, and randomness throughout our day. It helps. It’s tough not having a timeframe on this. Is it weeks? Is it months? Who knows.

I’ve been trying to do some home workouts since this all started (yes, I’m one of those people posting their workouts online). Sharing these things helps me stay motivated and apparently it helps others so I’ll keep doing it.

Trying to do circuits in my living with the small amount of equipment I have is tough but actually quite fun. It’s nice to mix it up a bit. I do four rounds of seven exercises and focus on injury prevention rather than burning calories. So I do a lot of leg and glutes work with my resistance band and core work. It helps wake me up in the morning and get set for the day at least!

Running has still been going on. I’ve basically finished my marathon training plan now as next weekend would have been Rotterdam and I continued with the long runs I had scheduled regardless. I don’t know what to do now really. Just run for fun and enjoyment. I’m happy with that.

Of course I’ve been running solo now. But a couple of weeks ago (before the more strict rules were in place) Kyle and I ran to Southsea together from his house. I did 3.5 miles beforehand and then we ran together to the promenade.

I had originally intended to “only” do 16 miles, but I felt so good on the run I ran a bit more. I just felt like everything had slotted into place and I could keep running. It was just one of those lovely runs, and the sun was shining!

In the back of my mind though I was thinking “this could be my last long run” and that definitely motivated me a bit more.

Last weekend was an entirely different long run. While I felt good running, I felt a bit sad and lonely. No Kyle to run with, the roads so quiet, my route altered to avoid the usual busier promenade on the coast… it just felt very different indeed.

I felt the constant guilt of running as well… should I be running? But I luckily do live in a relatively quiet area and the routes I choose are normally, at the best of times, very quiet and so now are almost dead. And with the roads being quiet as well, it’s very easy to jump onto them if I do happen upon a walker to give enough space.

I listened to my film review podcast from BBC 5 Live while running and lifted my spirits somewhat. Despite there being no films being released, the presenters still managed to do the podcast and talk about movies and just generally keep things going. It was a nice moment of normality in this madness.

So what now? Who knows. But I’m going to continue running and being sensible. Hope you’re all safe and well!

How are you doing during this time?

Are you working from home?

Are you still running?