New year, same me

I just re-read my last year’s New Year’s resolution post. I say “resolutions” but I don’t really make them… basically it was what I had planned for the year basically.

It was really interesting. My plan for the Dubai Marathon, that I ran in January, was to “go for it” and my plan for the Brighton Marathon was to just bimble round. How different that turned out! Dubai was my slowest marathon time of the year (3:39:58) whereas Brighton is now my PB (3:16:28). It’s funny how things are never as you plan (well for me certainly).

2018 was a really good year for me in terms of running. I ran five marathons! I put the exclamation mark because this still shocks me. My body is so much stronger. SO much stronger. Regularly going to the gym and working on my strength has hugely helped. I know where my weaknesses are and what to work on. I’ve had minimal niggles, and anything that did crop up disappeared relatively quickly.


I ran 1,633.9 miles. I PB’ed at my 5k (19:40), was five seconds off a 5 miles PB (33:48), unofficiallybeat my 10k three times during training runs (41:49), beat my half marathon PB (1:31:106) and got a new marathon PB (3:16:28). So in purely performance-related achievements, I think I’ve done well!

Hitting my target of running a sub-20 minute parkrun, a goal I had at the start of the year, made me very happy. I mean it was horrifically hard and I felt every single second, but I got there (twice actually, I squeezed a 19:59 at Victoria Docks parkrun). I’m very happy with that time and feel no desire to attempt to go faster. Sure sub-19 minute sounds amazing but so does winning the lottery, some things in life aren’t meant to happen to me 😉

One of my most proud achievements was getting my parkrun Alphabet Challenge completed. It genuinely took me a lot of organising , but I had so much fun along the way. It gave me good excuses to visit friends, go to different places and have adventures. Something I see goes firmly hand in hand with my running.

So 2019. Well, I’d love to do 4-5 marathons again. In the plan currently is a Barcelona in March, Manchester in April (I know, scarily close to each other), Chicago in October (my LAST Marathon Major!!!) and probably Portsmouth Coastal in December again. I see a gap between April and October so I’m sure if all is well I’ll squeeze something in between. But I don’t want to become complacent with my new found “lack of injury” status I have so I won’t make any assumptions lightly!

It might be nice to get close to my marathon PB again. Manchester or Chicago might be viable options as they’re both flat. The New York Marathon showed me I could put a good time in and still enjoy myself so that makes me more inclined to try. But getting under 3:16 will require consistent, solid running and almost certainly with some speedwork put in. This is something I probably should have as a goal… but actual track? No I think I’m done with that. Let’s be honest, going from zero speedwork to intense PROPER speedwork on the track was never going to be a great fit for me.

So perhaps some less formal sessions with Hedge End Running Club (who are a bit more chilled about these things) and some sessions on my own… once in a while anyway. I won’t commit to anything as ludicrous as “once a week” as that’s a lofty target that I’ll never hit. Baby steps.

In terms of my life outside of running… well, if you couldn’t tell I’m very happy. I wouldn’t have thought I’d be this happy last year but I am.

It’s funny because I actually didn’t think I was missing anything. I was quite content bumbling along with my life and didn’t really think I needed anyone to “make” me happy. But there you go. Kyle and I have a lot of adventures planned for this year. I just hope I don’t mess anything up! I mean there’s bound to be many more Anna’isms through the year but I guess that’s to be expected…

Do you make New Year’s resolutions?

What are your goals for the year?

Did you achieve what you wanted in 2018?

Running Lately

So running lately has been going surprisingly well. I have no niggles or injuries and I’m running consistently around 35-40 miles a week, five times a week.

I’m really proud of how things are going. I seem to be in a very happy place with it and my body doesn’t seem to be breaking. Granted I’m not doing much (if any) speed work and I do wonder how much this helps me avoid injury. I also get a lot more enjoyment out of running by not putting myself through track workouts and intervals each week. However I realise I do probably need to incorporate some of that into my week (or every two weeks) to keep my running from going stale and plateauing on progress.

That said, I’m sure you know my views on these things. I’d rather run consistently slow than super fast with numerous breaks for injury recovery. I’m just a happy plodder. If I never get another marathon PB again I’ll be OK with that. It’s just the experience I enjoy, the thrill of the race (even when not racing), the challenge of all those miles and seeing different places. Boring as that well may be, it’s what I enjoy.

I’ve had a few people say to me I could dip under the 3:15 to get a championship place at London and as amazing as that would be I’m not sure it’s something I want to target. If it happens naturally then of course I’d be up for it, but I very much doubt it would. When I got my 3:16 PB at Brighton I was doing more speed workouts than I am now and was in better shape. The thought of putting more effort in right now for a lofty target isn’t quite where my head’s at.

Maybe next year I’ll have another go, put more effort into structured training… who knows. I do have some good marathons planned where this might be possible. The Barcelona Marathon in March, Manchester Marathon in April and Chicago in October. All are relatively flat and fast courses. So there is that temptation (of course I won’t be targeting all of them… I’m no machine, as we very much know!).

In the near horizon, as in this Sunday, I have the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon. It’s not a PB course despite being quite flat. It’s right next to the coast and if you get bad weather it will really affect the day and the course is semi-off road. But it might be as still and cold as last year and in that case I might go slightly faster than the “plod and be merry” pace I had intended. So I’ll decide the night before or on the day how I feel.

If I did “go for it” I would be super happy with 3:25-3:30, with the course and the fact that it’s not exactly 26.2 miles (last year it was 27 miles) due to the tide causing issues. I do feel like that would be quite a bit of effort though and already I’m mentally backing out. I don’t want to put pressure on myself or be disappointed.

My main focus on the day will be hoping that Kyle does well for his first marathon. After a bit of a bumpy training lead-up due to not being able to start training until a bit later than ideal due to injury and then missing a week due to illness, it’s not been as good as planned.He managed a successful 18 miles which, though he didn’t think it at the time, went pretty well! He struggled through – but then realistically, for your first 18 miler, do you do anything other than struggle through?I just hope he doesn’t have a a bad time of the marathon. He’s a very strong runner though with a solid game plan, so fingers crossed for him. Just really hope the weather is kind to us! We’ll have the full cheer squad out in force as well, so that’ll certainly help.

So hopefully 2018 will finish nice and happy and in a strong place for running. It’s funny to think I started the year with the Dubai Marathon, in the hot sun, and now I’m ending it in, very likely, traditional wet and cold British weather in Portsmouth…

Do you have any big goals for next year?

Do you have any races coming up?

What I’m loving lately – December

I’m not stressed that I still have so many presents to buy for Christmas. I’m not stressed. I’m not stressed. Panic is not ensuing…

Anyway while that inner monologue continues, here are some things I’m loving lately and wanted to share.

Date nights: Kyle and I always make it a priority to have at least one date night a week and this usually involves the cinema (though I’m sure everyone has worked this out already, though I’ve not explicitly said it on the blog, Kyle is my boyfriend!).

We both love going to the cinema; the whole experience is just a fun one, whether the film is really good or… not (*cough* I’m looking at you, Robin Hood). We generally see one film a week. Last week we saw Ralph Breaks the Internet which was a good laugh (I loved the Disney princess bit), and a few more standouts were First Man and Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s just nice to do something mid-week and as we both work at the same place it’s an easy thing to go straight there. We buy a Subway from work (which after 3pm goes down in price), and a fizzy drink from the cinema (we take our reusable straws because we are super cool eco warriors) and enjoy a fairly inexpensive but fun evening.Not only did we go to the cinema last week but we also went out for dinner and then saw Jurassic Park in Concert. Basically this is a showing of Jurassic Park on the big screen with a live orchestra on the stage below the screen playing the soundtrack as the film played. It was INCREDIBLE.The orchestra were amazing. Like you could forget that they were’t actually part of the film. It was fascinating to watch them play as the film went on (though I imagine they’re so sick of Jurassic Park now having toured around the country doing this!). They were perfectly in sync and it was just so all-encompassing. Dinner was pretty good as well. Before the showing, we went to 7Bone Burger. I had the Triple-D burger (which comes with blue cheese sauce and bacon) and halloumi fries…And a cheeky side of chicken wings. Kyle had a fried chicken burger with halloumi fries and a chocolate milkshake. It was goooood. The milkshake (as I did help Kyle out a bit with it…*cough*) was SUPER thick. Personally I’m not a huge milkshake fan but if I were to have one myself it would be a thick one. It was delicious.Podcasts: I listen to a number of podcasts every week: BBC Five Live Film Review, Marathon Talk, Empire Film Review, TED Radio Hour, My Dad Wrote a Porno – and dip in and out of other ones that take my interest. But I’ve recently been finding myself running out of them (I listen to them in the car, walking Alfie or when I’m doing boring chores around the house). My lovely friend, Emma, recommended Fearne Cotton’s podcast Happy Place and it’s great!I listened to the Gary Barlow one first and found it really interesting. It’s amazing how celebrities who are so famous, earning so much money and seemingly living their “best life” can be taken down by depression or body image issues. I’ve since listened to the interview with Mel C and Stephen Fry and both were just as good. Heartily recommend.

Recovery: I’ve come a long way since I first started running. When I was facing all my injury and niggle woes I’d be foam rolling, stretching and icing until the cows came home. But recently I’ve been finding I only really need to do a bit of light stretching after my circuit workouts, foam rolling on my calves maybe once a week and, when I get the chance, lovely soaks in the bath with some of this amazing stuff.Vie Epsom foot and Bath Salts are fantastic addition to a hot bath. It apparently helps increase your magnesium levels and sulfates, which are quite tricky to get through food but can actually be absorbed through the skin. Both are really good for your joints and muscles in terms of recovery.I add a couple of cups (as you can see above – the cup doesn’t come with the salts FYI) in the bath and just relax and enjoy. I’ve found it can really decrease how much I’ll ache the next day. I don’t know about injury prevention but it definitely makes me feel better anyway.

Blondies: Amazingly I won more baked goods on Instagram again. I just seem to be very lucky (or enter ALL the competitions…). Anyway, the lovely company Fully Loaded Treats sent me six blondies, three different flavours.Oh my god they were good. There were M&M ones, Hershey’s Cookies and Cream ones and another type that I think were Kinder Bueno that were awesome.There’s something about blondies that I so love. I mean I do prefer brownies I think but blondies are a nice change now and again.

Dylan: My parents have three dogs (Lexi, Dylan and Sam) where I have just Alfie. Dylan is probably the most stupid out of them all (in a really cute and lovable way though). I can’t help but share how cute he looked the other morning.He’s very much a “I’d rather sleep than do anything else” kind of dog. Well, actually he’d rather eat than do anything else but sleep is a close second. I mean, let’s be honest, I think we all have a little Dylan inside of us all.

Do you prefer blondies or brownies?

Do you have any recovery tips or routines?

What podcasts do you listen to?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Epsom salts for free in return for a review on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Not all runs are created equal

Running is a tricky beast. And our bodies are fickle funny things.

You can have an amazing run where you want to go on forever, and then you can have a run where every mile is like dragging your tired bored through porridge. My runs lately have been a mix of this. But such is the nature of running eh!

I won’t lie, speed training has fully taken a back seat. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy going to track when I went but it’s a hassle. I mean I knew it would be but I was happy to make the effort. Now the initial excitement (if that’s the right word for it…) has worn off I’m a bit “meh” to it.

I think this mainly comes down to the fact that I’ve achieved quite a bit this year that I didn’t expect I would (5k, half and marathon PB’s). I’m not one of those people who OMG MUST GET A NEW PB EVERY RACE. Sure it’d be nice but realistically it’s not my driving force. I don’t feel I’ve failed if I don’t get near my PB in a marathon. I mean, I’d be a pretty big failure if that were the case. I just love running and love running marathons. Time is secondary to the enjoyment.

My self-worth and how I feel about running is not hinged on the time on my Garmin. I’m not saying that people are wrong for loving the thrill of PB-seeking each time or for striving to get faster and faster. I just don’t have that drive. I must get boring when people ask what time I’m aiming for in a marathon. My usual response is “3:45ish injury-free”. If I feel good on the day I might go faster. But if I get 3:44 or 3:29 it really doesn’t change how happy I feel at the end.

My gripe with track is that it means leaving work later and then losing an hour where I drive to Southampton, sit in my car for about 10-15 minutes (if I leave work any later I’ll hit traffic, so I have to have this contingency time) and then run the 1.5 miles to track (you have to be warmed up beforehand), do track and run back, drive back and oh hey it’s now 8.30pm and I haven’t had dinner or any evening. I guess there are some people out there that would see this as an obstacle to overcome, a worthwhile sacrifice for the greater good of training, progression and success. I just see it as a way to make me grumpy and hangry so early in the week.

I will still go occasionally but right now I’m doing that thing of choosing stuff that makes me happy rather than makes me dread one day in the week 😉 Life is too short to do shit you don’t enjoy for reasons that aren’t important to you. As well as this, my mate Joe would normally go to track and catching up with him was one of the bonuses for going but he’s currently injured so my motivation is at a real low.

But anywho, I get random bursts of motivation to run faster so I’m sure I’ll get back to it eventually. But right now, I’m just happy that I’m running consistently and injury-free (TOUCH WOOD).

But anyway, my recent runs have been a bit hit and miss. I had a fantastic social run Wednesday evening with my lovely friend Kim where we natter about everything and anything and saw a beautiful sunset on the beach.We ran 5 miles and it was lovely. We bumped into the Stubbington Green Runners doing their evening run which nice – everyone smiling and saying hi.Most of the runs I really enjoy won’t increase my speed and won’t help me beat my PB’s but I always finish smiling and remembering why I love running.

On Friday I ran with the Wiggle guys for the Wiggle Run Out (last Friday of the month we go running, cycling, walking or swimming in the afternoon). I actually lead it for the first time which from the outset yes, did seem a bit dubious. BUT no one died. No one got lost. I see that as a huge success 😉We ran round Farlington Marshes. The weather was great and it was nice to get out of the office for some fresh air and some chat with people I don’t get to see much in the office.But then on Saturday my run was less than stellar. I squeezed my long run in as I had plans on Sunday. I ran 8 miles to Lee-On-Solent parkrun, then parkrun, then four miles home again. And it felt like such a slog.
I mean I guess running 8.5 miles the day before hadn’t helped but jeeeeze it was tough.parkrun did make me laugh though as while we were running I got so confused. I kept looking at my watch and wondering how I’d suddenly gotten a lot slower. My watch said 9:08 but I didn’t feel like I was running at that effort. It felt far too tough for what should ordinarily feel a bit easier for me. And I was getting slower! 9:09 now… what was happening?

And then I realised… I was looking at the time. I have only recently configured my Garmin watch face to show the time as one of the fields as it annoyed me I couldn’t see it when running. Ahh what an idiot. I was actually running 7:45ish.I was happy to negative split and do a sprint finish at the end (such a decent stretch for it at Lee). I didn’t hang around too long as I had places to be so plodded my way home at what felt like such an awful slog. I realise my paces aren’t really a “plod” but it definitely felt that way!And when I finished I felt overwhelming tired. Like I could literally lie down and sleep straight away. I had to have a 45 minute nap later in the day! I imagine it’s because I haven’t really dropped my mileage down since the marathon and I’m still going full steam ahead. I’m on dodgy territory I know and should be cautious.Happily though I felt a lot better the next day after a solid night sleep and phenomenal Sunday lunch. Rest, nutrition and good company definitely help!So good. Roast beef and roast pork (with crackling)… Sunday lunch goals right there.

How’s your running going?

What motivates you?

What’s your favourite roast?

Instagram and that time I over-dosed on chicken wings

I was going to do a “What I’m loving lately” style post but I ended up waffling too much about two things so let’s just go with that…

Instagram: Say what you like about Instagram and why people use it, I love it. I enjoy using it, I enjoy posting and I enjoy following other people. You do need a degree of “take this with a pinch of salt” perspective of course because people generally post their best selves and it’s a very glossy world vision (as with all social media). You have to be careful not to think too deeply or worry too much about the things you see. Comparison is the thief of joy, and there are ALWAYS going to be people running faster than you, looking more put-together than you, have more money than you, go to more cool places, holidays, restaurants, get more free stuff than you. But as long as you can accept that and not let it affect your own self-worth and value, it’s good fun.I love a good scroll and I enjoy posting gym selfies and running updates on there. It’s fluff and nonsense and, in reality, no one cares more than you do about your own posts, but I enjoy the micro blogging element of it.

And after than preamble…I’ve started another Instagram account on top of my usual @AnnaTheAppleBlog one. This one is a food-based Instagram account called @AnnaTheCake88. Yes yes I know 😉I wanted somewhere to document all the amazing food I’ve eaten and will go on to eat. But I didn’t want to muddy my purely fitness-focused account with food. So a new one was born. On this one I can follow all different kinds of local restaurants (or aspirational restaurants I’d love to go to) and be inspired to visit new places to try new foods. I can really focus in on food-related stuff, which, as you probably know, I love doing.

A twing thing: Speaking of food…I’ve been enjoying lots of good food recently. I never realised how good a place Southsea was for food. It’s just down the road from work which makes it a perfect place to drop into. With the weather recently being so nice it’s a great place to walk along the beech, have a drink and enjoy some good food.It kind of reminds me of Brighton, but obviously a lot smaller and not as popular. It has so many quirky restaurants – and most of them have vegan options or some even have entire vegan separate menus. I obviously love my meat but I don’t mind trying a bit of a vegan food once in a while as a change!

I went to Two Doors Down recently with Kyle on a Wednesday evening as it was “Twings” Night. All you can eat tacos and wings for £13. I was ALL over this. I love, love, love chicken wings so this was right up my street. We’d been to the restaurant before and had had a really nice meal there so we knew we were in for a treat. The waiter informed us that to stop people over-ordering and wasting food you had to finish the plate you were on before ordering more, which made complete sense. I’m almost certain they looked at me and thought “ha, we’ll make our money on this one”. Little did they know…

There were lots of different wing flavours (buffalo, Korean BBQ, honey and mustard, honey and sriracha, etc.) and you could choose between cauliflower “wings” and regular chicken wings. As much as I would have enjoyed trying the cauliflower ones I decided to focus on chicken because it actually took a while each time to order another plate as they were quite busy and we only had our table till 8pm. PRIORITIES PEOPLE. This also meant that I decided to not get any tacos either. The tacos had different flavours too – and jack fruit versions not just different meats.The wings were good. So good. I decided early on to avoid the baffalo wings… they were the first eight that I had and it really did a number on my tongue and mouth with the heat. So I tried the Korean BBQ next. Still fairly spicy. As I was in it for the long game, I decided to move to and stick with honey and mustard.In the end I managed five plates of eight chicken wings… 40 chicken wings in total. I won’t lie, the last plate was a struggle and certainly the last two wings I probably didn’t enjoy that much but 40 sounds better than 38 😉 I realise this is the height of gluttony but I genuinely didn’t intend to eat as many as I did going into it. I just have quite an appetite!

It was a fun evening for sure. The next day I honestly wasn’t hungry until about 1pm. I don’t know how many calories I consumed but if each chicken wing was 80-100 calories (no idea if this is accurate but I did a quick Google) that would between 3,200-4,000 calories. Blimey. Let’s pretend I didn’t have chips with that too…

Do you like chicken wings?

Have you ever done a food challenge? I’m not sure I would. I like to enjoy my food rather than race through it or prove a point.

Do you use Instagram?