Celebrating the spring equinox and a parkrunanniversary

Happy spring equinox all! I think by now the lighter evenings are so much more noticeable (I’m not so bothered about the mornings because it’s straight off to work) and it’s so lovely having walks or runs in the evening that are still in the light. Very good for the soul.

Last Friday I had an email from parkrun saying that it was my 6 year parkrun anniversary on the Saturday- I started on the 16th March 2013, and this year the 16th also fell on a Saturday. To not make the numbers quite add up, it was my 189th parkrun (but then I remembered that the first time I was tail walker I didn’t realise I was meant to take a finish token, so technically I’ve done one more..)- anyway, on Saturday I was token sorting after running Ellenbrook, and in the volunteer email it turned out it was my 50th volunteer occasion which was quite nice timing.

It was so windy on Saturday (yet again- another storm with another not-too-fierce-sounding name)- as the volunteers are meant to arrive at 8.30 I checked in and then ran up and down the runway a bit to keep warm (as I wasn’t needed until I’d finished running)- at least the wind direction meant it would be behind us on the final km. It was an enjoyable run, and it was nice to think about what parkrun has meant to be in these past 6 years. Dad persuaded me to go along, as he had done one at Wimbledon with the other tennis officials. I did think “I can just run 5k from my front door”, but once actually at a parkrun it all made sense. At first we only went maybe once a month, when we were all free, and I’d pick Dad and my brother up on the way. But once Panshanger started, it was far more regular, and became part of my weekend. I think it’s meant that I see my family more often. Since moving out my parents are still close by, but with lives being busy it isn’t always easy to make the time (and to find time that we can all do), but if we’re both around then we’ll text in the week and work out if we are meeting at a local one or going on a tourism trip, and Mum will offer to cook pancakes for breakfast when we get back. I love running with my dad too (or trying to keep up with him if he’s heading off on his own to run a bit faster), and chatting about how we found it once we’ve finished.  Mum has been to a few trips with us, and when it was our 100th runs she baked loads of cakes and handed them out while we ran. I could probably ramble on for thousands of words about how great it all is, but I’ll leave it there for now.

Token sorting in the wind was very stressful! The RD did say that I could leave it and he’d do it at home, but I felt bad after agreeing to do it. They have a little toolbox with compartments for each lot of 20 tokens, so in the end I sorted them into the tool box, although I could only do one at a time, opening the lid quickly and then shutting it right away so that the sorted tokens didn’t blow away. The unsorted tokens in the little bucket kept blowing away too- not very easy!

Once home (and after a shower to warm up) we had a late breakfast of chocolate almond croissants warmed in the oven (I’d been to town on Friday so of course I had to pop to Gail’s) plus a big cup of tea.

I had some work to get on with, so I ploughed through it and then we walked into town later on to stretch the legs.

My tea club for March arrived, and I bought some mini daffodils to brighten up the dining room.

On Sunday morning I headed out for a final long run before this Sunday’s half marathon- just under 11.5 miles in the end and it all felt good. Lots of signs of spring about, but also a few big trees that had blown down.

After a shower and a big bowl of porridge, I got on with some life admin. Seriously, changing my name has been rather headache inducing- I had to submit a photo of my passport and wedding certificate 5 times to paypal before it was accepted! My driving licence arrived, I changed it with my running club and various online shops, signed up to the Brighton 10k (in my new name) and booked a hotel for that weekend. All very satisfying. After a quick walk we were off to the cinema to see Fighting with my Family, which I really enjoyed (I still don’t like wrestling though).

On Monday I had to leave work with enough time to get to the opticians as I wanted to get the anti scratch coating put on the other pair. Work has been busy, so on Tuesday when Andy fancied a walk we decided to have a nice 3 mile walk instead of me heading out on a run- it was even light for most of our walk!

On Wednesday at lunch time I had a quick walk around the fields and woods- there were lots of daffodils and I saw so many little birds flitting about. That combined with yoga in the evening was a good way to celebrate the spring equinox.

I’ve noticed that when my to do list gets long, I end up doing half of lots of jobs and not ticking off anything, and even though taking 20 minutes to have a quick walk can seem like I am spending 20 minutes not finishing things, it seems to give me a brain break that means when I come back I actually am more productive.

Did you do anything to celebrate the spring equinox? At yoga we looked at the moon at the start and did lots of visualisations and breathing exercises to “clear out” the stale air and thoughts, and up our energy levels now that spring is here. (We also attempted the wheel pose- I still don’t have the upper body strength to lift my head off the floor, plus my ponytail gets in the way, but at least I can bend far enough to get onto my head).

How do you organise your “to do” list? I love a list (I am one of those people who adds things to lists after I’ve done them just so I can tick them off) and have become a convert to Google Keep- I can have different lists for home, blog stuff, work, a shopping list, and although I do like a paper list, the fact I can add things wherever I am (either on my phone or laptop) means I am less likely to forget to do something.

When is your parkruniversary? And how did you first hear about it?

Collecting the freebies and a breezy run

Last week on Saturday afternoon, Andy and I headed into town as I’d won some free pancakes from Bill’s, so we thought we’d head for a late lunch.

Andy had a burger, while I had pancakes with caramelised banana, chocolate sauce, almonds and salted caramel ice cream. They were delicious- if only they were on their menu all the year round.

I had some work to get on with in the afternoon, as well as more name changing things (trying to change the name on my paypal is proving to be hard, but not as impossible as the saga with the Post Office continues, although my new passport came so I got my driving licence paperwork ready to be sent off) and we watched a film in the evening (but I cannot remember what it was, although it was possibly some of the Michael Jackson docu which I have erased from my brain because it showed just how creepy he was).

On Sunday morning I was off for a run- I’d pencilled in 9-10 miles, and I was going to meet Andy in town for breakfast after, as I had a voucher for porridge from Caffe Nero (these shops know how to get me!). I’d vaguely planned a route (that’s not like you, you normally precisely plan your routes I hear you cry), and I ended up going up and down a road near town a little bit to make it up to 9 miles. It was pretty windy so when I got to 9 miles  I stopped and went into the cafe.

I got a porridge plus honey (an entire mini jar of honey which at first I thought would be too much, and then after a while I tipped it all in…) and a tea, and listened to a podcast while Andy walked in to meet me, bringing my coat. We then popped to John Lewis as I’d decided to spend a voucher on a cushion for one of our arm chairs, and then I needed to use my Vitality Starbucks voucher so I got a chai latte before we walked home. It was so windy and kept raining, blowing over and even hailing on our walk home- the hot shower once home was very much appreciated!

We’d bought some bagels and some Nush cream cheese (which is made from almonds) for lunch which was very tasty too. We then popped over to see Andy’s parents for a few hours, sitting inside and watching the wind blow everything everywhere- will this autumnal weather ever end??

The week was fairly quiet- Monday was a walk after work, Tuesday I was back late due to bad traffic and also felt pretty tired so just did a 3 mile run. On Wednesday yoga was super busy (16 people I think) with lots of new people, and we did a lot of work on breathing, a lot of core work and some nice inversions.  Andy had been out for dinner and I’d persuaded him to pop to The Pudding Stop after to get some take away (the loyalty card scheme is transferring over to a new system at the end of March and I only needed one more stamp…). He did good, getting us a peanut butter and salted caramel brownie to share on Wednesday, and a pecan pie to share for Thursday.

On Thursday I was feeling really tired again in the evening, and was pondering on just having a walk instead, but in the end I decided I’d feel better after, and I think it was the right decision. I had in the back of my mind that I’ve got another half marathon next weekend so I can’t ease off too much before then. It’s a hard call to make sometimes. I did 4 miles and then got home, had a shower and put my PJ’s on.  I felt OK afterwards, so I think it was the right decision, but it isn’t always easy to work out, especially when I can feel very mentally drained after a day at work and it’s hard to distinguish between that and physical tiredness sometimes.

Andy messaged me on Friday to let me know that my tea club had arrived- it’s always a good day  when that happens!

How do you know when to rest and when to keep going? Are you easily swayed by a freebie?

More yoga, less running and more cake

John Lewis cake/ Cinnamon bun/ hot chocolate/ segment leader-board and map on Strava

Sunday night finished with a hot chocolate (the velvetiser does make amazing hot chocolates), and then on Monday after work I met Andy in town and we had our free cake at John Lewis and a browse around the shop. On Tuesday the plan was for a run, but when I got home Andy had just given the bathroom another coat of paint, so I couldn’t have a shower until 10pm- I didn’t fancy running and then being all sweaty for ages so we had a long walk instead, and I had a quick shower (no hair wash) straight before bed.  I’d had a sore shoulder so after the walk I did a 15 min yoga video on you tube, plus a bit of tennis ball rolling, and it helped so much. I must remember it more often!

The conjunctivitis cleared up in one eye but then it appeared in the other eye (I thought I was being careful about handwashing and so on, but apparently I rub my eyes in my sleep so I stood no chance). I was a bit fed up by the end of the 5 days of drops per eye because whenever I did the drops, some of the liquid would go down my throat and they tasted absolutely vile. (No lasting damage from the chilli powder thankfully!).

One day I got a notification saying that someone else had taken my course record on a Strava segment – I didn’t even know that I had the record! I’ve not run up that road for ages as I used to run it with the midweek OH lady club runs, so I probably won’t claim it back. It does surprise me because I’m not the fastest runner- maybe they are just not on Strava!

Wednesday night I was back at yoga- I’d missed weeks because of meetings at work and it isn’t on in the school holidays. The people in the class who’d been last week were talking about the previous class and how much they ached after, so the class was tailored to be another tough one! We did a lot of holding poses for a long time, and by the end of the warrior poses (imagine holding a lunge pose for ages) my legs were properly shaking! I managed to  balance in the crow pose for a bit, and the final relaxation was very welcome!

On Thursday I finally managed a run- it was raining but with the new download of With Me Now (my favourite parkrun podcast) it didn’t seem quite so bad, and my 4 mile route turned out to be 5 miles so it was lucky that I was happy being out there. Andy had been to London for a meeting, and so had gone to the amazing Swedish bakery in Covent Garden and picked us up a couple of cinnamon buns- they are totally amazing.

On Friday I was home relatively early so we had a nice long walk before watching Free Solo- honestly I could not have watched that in the cinema- it gave me sweaty hands just thinking about some of it. It was a very interesting film, and did make me want to go back to Yosemite, not for any sort of climbing though!

On Saturday morning I parked outside my parents and then ran to Jersey Farm parkrun, where I had planned to run then sort tokens. The rain took me by surprise as I didn’t even have a coat with me (I didn’t want to carry loads of things on the run there/back).  I had a lovely time chatting to lots of people before  it started, but when I spoke to the RD he told me that they sort them in the cafe afterwards. At Ellenbrook and Panshanger there isn’t a cafe (just coffee vans) so it’s done by the finish (which means as soon as you finish running you can start sorting them, and then finish the last ones as the final runners come in), so I felt rather anxious about this sort of situation when I don’t really know anyone. I enjoyed the run and persuaded myself that getting out of my comfort zone was good for me, and that I would enjoy visiting the cafe (it’s the gorgeous Heartwood tearooms where I’d been for breakfast with my brother before).

After finishing my run I stood and chatted to a few runners, and helped pick up signs that were blowing everywhere in the wind, but the rain got heavy so they told me to go on ahead as I was getting rather wet. I jogged the half mile or so to the cafe and ordered myself a tea and teacake (thinking it would be a smaller option than pancakes)- well it was huge!  I’m not sure the picture really conveys how big it is! I had a slight panic when someone at another table asked if they took card- I was assuming that they would as all I had with me was my phone- I keep my debit card and an emergency £5 in the case- as I thought I’d be going home for breakfast…. thankfully they did- I was rather relieved as I was eating my tea cake at this point.

After a while the RD turned up with the tokens, so I sorted them into tens, then put them in order back onto the cable tie. One of my colleagues happened to turn up for breakfast with her husband, and was trying to work out what I was doing, so I explained it to her, and then at another table a couple of parkrun tourists were having their breakfast (one of whom writes a blog about all his parkrun tourist adventures), so we chatted for a while too. It was really enjoyable (of course- what was I worried about?). Of course I had to take a photo of token number 1 as I’d not stand a chance of getting one in the wild!

However, the run back to the car (around 1.5 miles) wasn’t quite as comfortable being full of tea and teacake!  I’d happily do this again for Jersey Farm parkrun, and next time I’d know to park a little closer to the cafe to make the walk back to the car a little more comfortable.

At least by the time I left the sun had come out. In my results text I found out I’d got a course pb too- 29:51- a successful morning all round (and for those who like the running challenges, I increased my p-index to 4, meaning I’ve run 4 or more times at 4 parkruns).

Where does your parkrun sort the tokens? Are you a teacake fan?  Sometimes it’s the only veggie option that isn’t scrambled eggs, so luckily I am quite partial to one. Have you seen Free Solo? (And did anyone else think for ages that it was some sort of Star Wars film?)

Dunstable Downs parkrun and a bit of an eye disaster

But first- recovery after the Brighton half marathon looked mainly like walks after work (it was so warm on Monday that when I popped into town after work I ended up getting an iced drink (but had forgotten my metal straw- so annoying). I was pretty stiff after sitting in the car for half an hour, so I did a lot of foam rolling that evening which helped. I had a few late meetings, so no evening runs or yoga, but I did have one early morning run just as the sun was coming up- a gentle 3 miles was plenty.

The light evenings are so noticeable now- we’ve been on a few evening walks and it has still been light!

On Saturday morning I picked up Dad and we headed to Dunstable Downs for event number 2 of the parkrun. I’d heard it was a possibility last year (and back then needed a D for my alphabet) but as parkrun like to keep new events fairly quiet now (which I totally understand as you don’t want new event teams to be swamped, and you want local park users to gradually get used to their park being used) it started fairly quietly last week.

We always used to head to Dunstable Downs when I was younger as it is a great place to walk or fly a kite (and watch para-gliders), and it’s right by Whipsnade Wild Animal park. You are in a lovely elevated position with beautiful views across the countryside, although on Saturday morning it was hard to see through the mist and drizzle. As anyone vaguely local will also know, it is always freezing up there no matter what the weather is like elsewhere (the penguins at the zoo are always very happy)- but both Dad and I forgot this and neither of us brought our gloves. It’s National Trust land so you use the NT car park (display your parkrun barcode to park for free until 11am) and there’s a big NT centre with cafe and toilets- we stood on one side of it away from the downs to shelter from the wind. The new runners briefing and main race briefing were also held here, and then we walked around the front of the building into the wind, for the start of the parkrun. There was a handy tarpaulin on the ground for coats etc, so we kept ours on until the last possible moment!

We stood only a few metres from the start, with most of the crowd behind us, hoping that the faster runners would move to stand in front, but everyone was chatting (I think because we’d already had the briefing)- the RD did try to get people to move forwards but not many people did, so after 3,2,1,go, we were fairly near the front.

The route is one lap, although there are a few bits you repeat in the other direction. You start off running gentle down a field, away from the visitors centre, then running back up close to the start/finish area- this was a steep hill and I found it a struggle to keep going.  After that it was gentle undulating but nothing awful- around fields, a lovely bit through some woods  (which you went through on the way back, although on different paths). Shortly after we entered the woods Dad sped ahead of me, and I settled into a comfortable pace. I think my legs were still feeling heavy from the half the weekend before, and the little steep hill at the beginning sapped my energy, so I felt as if I was running slowly, so when I finished I was surprised to get in under 30 minutes (29:26), I thought with number 86 but then realised “I belong to parkrun” was upside down, so I was actually number 68/150 runners.  It was still fairly windy and cold so we didn’t hang about too much at the end.  A lovely event to visit and one I’m sure we’ll go back to.

Then it was home for pancakes and tea and general relaxing. When I got home Andy had been glossing the woodwork in the kitchen and hall, so I got on with some work and we walked to town a little later. When I got back I remembered that I needed to top up the bird food (I keep remembering when it’s already dark) so I headed outside. I’ve been mixing a little bit of chilli powder in with the seed because I read it can put squirrels off (but the birds can’t taste it)- I am sure one squirrel can empty an entire feeder of seed in one sitting. Anyway, I was shaking the container and there must have been a clump of powder at the bottom as suddenly loads came out and up puffed a load of chilli, right into my eye (I had conjunctivitis) and it stung like mad. I had a bit of a panic (in this same eye in the past a little packet of shower gel exploded and all went in it, and I ended up with a mild burn, having to wear an eye patch and have several visits to the hospital) so I ran inside calling for Andy, who of course ran down to help me at the same time as putting his hand on the freshly painted banister…. Thankfully we washed out my eye (and washed it of my face- my nose and lips were stinging too)- not my finest hour!

On Saturday evening we watched Three Identical Strangers (I think it was on Channel4 last week) which was very interesting but also horrifying at times.

I was still feeling tired so on Sunday I just did a 6 mile run, stopping to take lots of pictures of the blossom- even in the rain and with grey skies it was all looking very pretty and spring-like.

I did a bit of baking- I adapted the jammie dodger blondie recipe by swapping the white for dark chocolate, adding a later of jam and peanut butter in the middle of the batter, and topping it with cut up mini biscuits (I only had a few packs left from last time) and cut up pb cups, to make pb&j brownies. We took them over  to Andy’s parents- very tasty.

Did you have a good weekend? How do you recover after a race?

Brighton half marathon 2019 weekend- what a scorcher!

I think my love of Brighton in general is pretty clear- it’s such a lively place to visit, you can walk along the seafront to Hove, you can have tea and cake in a cafe, and their sporting events always attract such good crowds. I didn’t do the half marathon last year because I signed up to Cambridge instead, but I really missed doing the Brighton run, so signed up to 2019 asap. It turned out to be in half term (often it’s the week after) so it meant we could head down on Friday afternoon, and check in and get to Bird&Blend for a drink before it shut. Just look at the weather that was predicted- Easter weather!

I went for a special of a Black forest latte- very good indeed.

Initially I wasn’t going to go to parkrun, and when I mentioned this to Andy I said I thought they were all a bit too far away (usually I would run to them, and run back, but the day before a training run is different to the day before a race and I wanted to be sensible) but he started googling it (I think probably knowing that I would be maybe a teeny bit less cheerful if I missed my parkrun fix) and it turned out that Preston Park was just over half a mile away, so I decided I would head there and go slowly.

It was such a beautiful morning with bright blue skies and just a gentle breeze. As I was meeting Andy for breakfast straight after, I’d taken a top to wear over my t-shirt, but within minutes of my (very gentle) jog to the start I was boiling and had to tie it around my waist.

I love that they have the estimated finish times at this parkrun, as it is a busy one (just under 500 runners this week)- I made sure I started close to the back and just took it steadily. A couple of weeks ago on a Monday my knee felt a bit dodgy, so I made sure that in half term I didn’t run too far, and had a day off between runs, so I did wonder if running 2 days in a row would be OK, but I just kept it steady and enjoyed the laps of the course, finishing in 32:38.

Then it was off to Cafe Coho for pancakes and people watching (we got a window seat), back to the hotel for a shower, and then out to enjoy the sunshine. On the Friday night I’d seen this cat bus mural, and I’d happened to pack my cat bus t-shirt, so I decided I had to wear it and have my photo taken in front of it! Totoro was even being shown on Film4 on Sunday.

Of course to make sure I was staying hydrated I got a drink to take with me on our walk (this time the classic  chai latte) and then we sat on the beach for a bit before walking along to Hove.

It was a bit windy (as you can tell by my hair!) but so warm and sunny.

We popped to Pret to share a wrap for lunch (not needing anything too big as we had a late breakfast) and then had some tea and cake a little later- this was a gorgeous lime and pistachio cake.

Dinner was at Food for Friends (a really nice veggie/vegan restaurant) and a fairly early night then called, with me putting my race number on my vest and making sure my kit was ready.

I didn’t actually measure the distance from our hotel to the start, and ended up doing a bit of a panic jog to the start, only just getting to my pen in time, but no matter, I wasn’t using the bag drop or the toilets so I just needed to be there. I had looked into a 2 hour time (the easy to remember 9:09 mile splits) and thought I would follow the 2 hour pacer and see how I managed, but the pen was so crowded that I couldn’t even see the pacer once I was in there.

The route was slightly different, heading along the coast first (whereas when I have done it before, we head to the pavilion first, then east along the coast, then west to Hove and then back). I am not sure if this made it feel busier, because the part to the pavilion is wider and so the runners thin out a bit more. I found the first few miles very crowded and I was getting a bit frustrated as I kept getting stuck behind people.  I did love it that just after the 3 mile sign I heard a guy say “is that half way?”… Anyway, I found it super crowded and at first I thought that it would be fine and I would run these miles slower and then speed up later, but then I think my first few miles were too slow for that, so I decided I would just enjoy the run, the sunshine, the crowd support, and not stress about the 2 hour time.

(The route is basically 3 and a bit miles east along the coast, gently uphill and flat, turn back and come back to the centre, have the 7th mile going up and down by the pavilion, then head west along to Hove for 3 miles, turn and then come back).

I didn’t notice many of the mile signs- I saw number 4 which said something like “more downhill- wheee”, and at mile 10 is said something like “Hove prom awaits”, but sometimes I’d glance at my watch to check on the pace and notice that another mile had ticked by. As I have said before, the crowd support was brilliant and I saw so many funny signs. There were a few groups of drummers out, and as you go out and back you passed them a couple of times. I always find the bit towards Hove the tough point, as you know you are going to turn (and can see runners heading back by the seafront) but it feels like a long way before you do. I don’t always have a drink in races, because it can make my stomach feel all sloshy, but it was hot so when I saw a water station coming up after 9 and a bit miles, I decided to stop and have a few sips. (Side note- they used paper cups which is so much better for the environment, and at the finish you got a can of water which, as it said on the can, can be recycled forever. But I didn’t always see signs for the water stations coming up, so suddenly people would be running across and the poor volunteers were all shouting saying that more water was further up).

After the water stop (there were others) it wasn’t long before we turned and saw the 10 mile sign- just a parkrun to go. I think at that point I was at about 1 hr 35, so I knew that I wouldn’t be able to run the final 3.1 miles in 25 minutes (seeing as I can’t run a parkrun that fast) so I just enjoyed the sights, listened to people chatting, looked for funny signs in the crowds and just felt happy running in the sunshine.

I think the unexpected heat had taken some people by surprise, and I saw a fair few runners being treated by the side of the road. With about half a mile to go, I suddenly felt really dizzy, sort of if the inside of my head was spinning to the side, so I slowed up and nearly stopped, trying to take some deep breaths- I didn’t want to be one of those runners. I felt OK so I carried on to the end, although I must have  been overtaken by loads of people having sprint finishes- I didn’t fancy risking it. Just after I crossed the finish line a runner needed treatment at the finish line so they started moving everyone over to one side.

I was given a medal (and the lovely lady told me she loved my sunglasses, but all I could do at that point was say thanks- I was trying to say thank you for volunteering but again I felt a bit weird). There were cans of water (as it said on the can, a can can be recycled forever) and bananas (hooray), foil blankets and energy gels, which I left. I had the water and banana asap as I thought I probably needed them both. It feels like you walk a long way after finishing before you can exit the finish area and start to walk back.

I took a few photos and then called Andy- he usually meets me at the finish but because the start time had been moved back (because of the train line being closed) we were not sure I’d make it back for a shower before check out. I was glad of the foil blanket because Andy had my jacket, and when I looked on google maps and found the quickest route back was 1.5 miles I did suddenly feel rather weary. I stopped off at Caffe Nero and got a cup of tea which helped. Rather brilliantly, when I got back to the hotel, I had missed  the check out but they had put on an amazing service where you signed up and were given a room to use for a shower (it had a huge pile of towels in it), so I could have a shower before we went to get some lunch.

My official time was 2:03:38- when I did it 2 years ago I finished in 2:03:23 so at least I am fairly consistent!  But the most important thing was that I really enjoyed this race- I love running in Brighton.

We went to Leon for a quick lunch and then on the way back to the car we walked past Cloud 9 so I got us a little cupcake to share after dinner.

And just to finish, here is a picture that google photos came up with- two pictures one year apart- anyone remember the Beast from the East?

Did you run or race this weekend?