Chippenham parkrun, Christmas markets and lots of trains

This weekend was time for our annual trip to the Bath Christmas markets. On Friday we had dinner at home and then drove to Swindon, where we were staying for the night. Last year we stayed around the corner from Swindon parkrun, and then we drove to the park and ride. This year we were going to get the train in from Swindon, so we stayed around the corner from the station instead. I had driven, and our hotel meant the parking could be validated and so cheaper for 24 hours, so I didn’t want to get the car out of the  car park (and I didn’t fancy driving across Swindon)- Chippenham was one stop on the train and the parkrun was right by the station so it seemed an easier option.

The train was at 8.15 (there was a later one but I didn’t want to take chances) so I left the hotel fairly early to run there and to give me time to buy my ticket. Annoyingly when I got ready I realised I hadn’t packed a running jacket/ jumper, and I knew I needed to take something with me as I’d be cold after finishing, so I had to wear my big Totoro hoodie which I’d been wearing the night before- not the easiest to run in. When I got to the station there were big queues by rail replacement buses and then I could not find the train I needed on the screens, but luckily there was a member of staff who I could ask, so I got my ticket and waited (if it was a bus I wasn’t going to go, as it would take a lot longer to get there and back). The train was 15 minutes and the walk from the station (following the most excellent instructions on their website) took barely two minutes, so I stood about taking a few photos. I ended up chatting to someone who was coming to a parkrun for the first time. There was a big map of the route on the fence so we looked at that and one of the marshals came over and explained it, and then later the RD did the new runners briefing.

The course was two laps of a field (with an uphill and downhill bit), then out along the river, and then two laps of some meadows (“muddy meadows” they told us) before returning along the river to the start/finish area.

I’d not run since Tuesday and had not been 100%, having lost my voice and developed a cough (and my cold has still not gone), so I was sensible and took the pace comfortably.

The first loop (repeated twice) was fine- they warned us that the hill didn’t look like much but would be tough as you ran up it, but it wasn’t too long and as I was aiming for around 10 min miles it was fine.  After running along the brow of the hill the course then went down to the start/finish area, so at the top you had a lovely view of all the runners snaking ahead, and when you ran past all the time keepers and scanners you had lovely encouragement. After running that lap twice there was a short run alongside the river before coming into some meadows (bottom right)- here the mud was very sticky and I wished I had my trail shoes on. I tried to look around and enjoy the views- as the meadow was filled with grass you could see other runners further around the loop- but I slipped so decided to focus on my footing. They had asked in the briefing to keep left if possible as you could get lapped in both sections (I did) so I tried to keep over but sometimes there wasn’t much path to run on!

After running the meadow twice I pushed the pace for a fast finish spurt along the riverside path, as that turned to tarmac near the finish. I got token 111 (I do like numbers like that) (31.19 so pretty much bang on for 10 min miles), and as I didn’t have too long before the next train I got my chip scanned and headed back to the station (and no chance of me getting lost as it was literally opposite the park). The train was a little delayed so I did get a bit cold stood on the platform, but thankfully it wasn’t as delayed as the sign originally said.

Once back at the hotel it was time for a shower and breakfast before going back to the train station to go to Bath (we did look at Andy meeting me in Chippenham but as we have a rail card it would have worked out a lot more expensive as I would have had to get singles for all 3 journeys). This was so much easier than getting the park and ride- particularly last year where we went to a different one and had trouble finding a space and then had to queue for ages. The train took 30 mins and it was lovely to just look out of the window and relax.

After a quick wander of the markets, we headed to the spa. There was a big queue, so I think we waited about 45 mins, but there was a guy playing guitar and singing, and lots to look at.

Some of the spa had been re-done since our last visit- the bottom floor is a big pool (the same) with a sort of jacuzzi part to it and some sort of current, but the middle floor, which used to contain 3 (or 4?) steam rooms with different scented oils had been upgraded. It had a couple of big steam rooms, an electric sauna (lower temp than normal- I could actually stand to be in there for more than a couple of mins!), an ice room (I didn’t fancy that!) and this very cool space themed relaxation room with stars on the ceiling, loungers to lie on and relaxing music. I really liked that! We did’t brave the rooftop pool though- too cold. After a couple of hours it was time to shower and get changed. We had somehow not thought the times through- by the time we left it was nearly 4.30 and we were both so hungry as we’d been in the spa at lunch time.

We had a table at Bill’s for a little later, so we went to get a hot drink and have a cereal bar, and wandered around the shops and markets for a bit.

Then after dinner we had a longer wander- I didn’t buy any presents this year but saw a few nice ideas. We got the train back to Swindon at 7.45 (there was one at 8.15, and then every hour but we didn’t want to be driving back too late) so we got home at around 10.15 which was much quicker than driving all the way back from the park and ride. Next weekend we are going to Winchester for their markets (and hopefully I’m going to Eastleigh parkrun first) so I’ll see what they have too.

Do you like going to Christmas markets? Have you been to the Bath spa?

A solution for an icy car, too many Christmas trees and not a Christmas jumper!

I used to park my car in our garage, but since we moved we don’t have a garage. It’s obviously much quicker to leave in the mornings (no more opening the door, reversing out, getting out to shut the door) but when it’s frosty it means scraping the car. I have covered the car in an old sheet before, but then it gets all soggy and it’s hard to find somewhere to leave it for it to dry out. Anyway, I was looking on Amazon and came across a car cover- it has little hooks to grip onto the wheels, and even little pockets for the  wing mirrors! It is some sort of woven fabric, but you can just shake it and most of the frost comes off, and then it folds up into a little bag that stays in the boot. I’ve only used it a couple of times but it is saving me time in the morning which is fab. It even has little reflective bits on the cover, in case you park it in the road I suppose.

I wore this jumper a few times last week and ended up having to explain to many people that it isn’t a Christmas jumper- it has penguins on it (what are they to do with Christmas??)- in fact penguins live in the South Pole, pretty much as far from Father Christmas as is possible…

Talking of Christmas, I have seen so many decorations up in the past few weeks (some around Halloween)- people have their trees up and flashing lights going. I feel like they are peaking too early. I feel like perhaps I am getting old, but honestly our tree didn’t go up until the school holidays, and sometimes not even until Christmas Eve (but if you got a real one too soon the needles would drop off anyway- although even when we got a fake one it was still late to go up as my parents aren’t big on Christmas and often don’t even have one any more). Down our road there are flashing lights and santa’s on the roof and all sorts.

Last week the big tree in town was turned on (I didn’t go) so on a run this week I ran past it, and I do like how it looks- all white lights and  there are fairy lights in the normal trees too.

Earlier in the week I had to go to a meeting and as the traffic was good I had a few minutes, so I stopped off to get a warm drink as it’s been so cold. The last hot chocolate I had from Costa tasted like coffee, so I was pleased when it was actually chocolate  flavoured.

During these cold days we have been loving the fire- it’s so toasty, although it does seem to dry out the air so I’ve been putting a little bowl of water next to it, with some essential oils in there to help with the humidity.

Not very wintery, but I was sent some Savse smoothies a while back. I really like these as they are made with veggies as well as fruits, so don’t seem as sugary as a normal smoothie.

They are all really good- the orange one contains mango, celery, apple, lemon, orange, passion fruit and carrot, and although I could taste the celery a little, it didn’t overpower. Even though I don’t like the idea of drinking beetroot (no idea why, because I love eating it), the purple one has been my favourite so far (with beetroot, apple, lemon, lime, mango, avocado and coconut). They are cold pressed and have a really good shelf life, so I’ve still got a couple in the fridge. I find them really good after a long run, or just when I fancy a bit of extra fruit. I think because of the veggies they are lower in calories than other 100% fruit smoothies too, with just over 100 cals per bottle, if you are interested in that sort of thing.

If I was out and about and fancied something like this I’d keep an eye out for them too.

When do you put your Christmas tree up? Have you noticed more being up earlier recently or is it just me? Do you have any Christmas or winter jumpers/ clothes? I’ll be cracking out my Christmas leggings once December is here!

*I was sent the smoothies in exchange for a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own.

Wintery walks, cold-busting and Paddington inspired marmalade

So as I mentioned in my last post, I was feeling a bit tired and under the weather- a sore throat and general achy bits. I was going to volunteer at the Hatfield 5 race on Sunday, but I didn’t want to sign up and then not make it, so I decided to err on the side of caution. I’ve moved the diffuser into the bedroom and have been adding some eucalyptus and peppermint oil to it to help with breathing overnight (you can put it on for 1, 3 or 6 hours but it cuts off when it runs out of water).

I had a meal out with friends on Thursday (which was lovely, and probably better for me than having a run after work, but did mean a late night) and straight away noticed banana and nutella mini calzone on the dessert menu (plus any hot drink), so I decided to have a small pizza with salad to save space for them.

Well, when it came, it was massive! I know it isn’t the size of a calzone you would have for dinner, but still. It also came with ice cream (I don’t remember reading that, but maybe it was on the menu), and I had a peppermint tea too- a very delicious end to the meal.

On Friday I was still feeling pretty tired, and decided that running parkrun may not be sensible. I quite fancied tail walking, so I looked around at the local ones and found that Westmill had hardly any volunteers and no tail walkers. I emailed them first thing, but didn’t hear back. Later they put a plea on facebook- I told them that I had emailed to tail walk, but by then they had filled the slot, and they asked me to marshal. Although I fancied walking at the back, or gentle jogging, the guilt got the better of me and I agreed.

It was freezing! But so pretty with the frost all over the fields and trees, and the ponds frozen solid. I’d only run it once before (it’s fairly new) and I did worry a bit about being sent to a marshal spot somewhere and getting lost but thankfully they gave me a spot by the car park.  It meant I could hang around the start area and chat to people as they came. I ended up chatting to a couple of tourists from Stevenage that had relocated from Milton Keynes- it was good as they had been to quite a few parkruns that I had also been to, so we could compare notes. They reminded me about the Letchworth parkrun coming next year- I’ll need to run it to keep my made up Queen of Herts status! After they headed off to the start, I took a few more photos and stamped my feet to try and keep warm.  Basically, the course is just under two laps- the runners meet at the finish for the new run briefing, and then walk up the track to the start. They then complete one lap, running past the finish, up past me where I directed them back towards the start to begin their second lap.  There were only 49 runners (it’s a small parkrun generally and I think the cold weather kept people away) but all were so friendly, thanking me on their way up the long hill. The tail walker went past just as the first runner finished, so I wandered down to the finish area for a bit and then as I could not feel my toes, headed back to the car.

After breakfast we walked the long way into town (to walk in and home is about 3 miles, but we walked 3 miles to town, then around and then home, so probably more like 5 or 6 miles). I picked up a Starbucks free drink (green tea latte this week), and after lunch we spent about two hours raking up leaves and filling the compost bins, garden waste bin and several sacks – the snowdrift of laves behind our cars were even bigger! Once it got dark I went inside and made a pumpkin pie for Sunday tea.

In the evening we went to see Paddington 2, which I totally loved. I was feeling a bit rubbish though- quite cold and sat under my coat the whole time.

I felt a bit groggy when I woke up on Sunday and felt like I really needed some fresh air to clear my head.  I thought I would just head into town do a small loop and come home. 4 miles took me 50 mins (lots of stopping to wipe my nose)- the pavements were so frosty and I could see footprints in the frost.

After breakfast we walked into town a different way, got a clementine hot chocolate from Caffe Nero to share for the walk home (so tasty), and stopped off in Morrison’s to get some sugar as I was going to make some marmalade. 6 miles walked – not bad!

Last year for Christmas I was given a kit to make marmalade- a tin of lemon peel and things, and some jam jars. I decided after seeing Paddington that the time was now to make it. I’ve added in some chopped crystallised ginger to make lemon and ginger marmalade- hopefully it will be good (it smells lovely).

To try and clear my cold away I’ve been having lots of this tea- it is so lovely.

How do you get over a cold? I know that resting is good, but also fresh air really seems to help but sometimes it’s hard to find the balance and you only realise too late that you’ve tired yourself out too much. Do you enjoy marshalling at parkrun (or races?)? I find it quite fun cheering everyone on, but I would rather do it in the summer when it’s too hot to run.

Bits and bobs and a headstand!

So, a bit of a random post coming up!

I’ve not managed to get to a club run in a while. We’ve had half term (I went out in the light in the morning), the next week I got back too late from work so went out on my own. Last week I finished work earlier, and the traffic was awful so I went out on my own (it was nearly light when I left!)- it seems like no-one actually managed to get to the meeting point as traffic was gridlocked, and then this week I was still stiff from the half marathon (plus the run leader wasn’t going to be there) so I just ran into town to get some cash out and then ran home- that was enough. Hopefully next week I’ll get there.

Yoga has been good- last week we focused on twists (we focus on something different each week) and also had a bit of headstand practise- I can now get both knees onto my elbows but the final push to stretch out the legs is so tough (and a weird feeling- it’s hard to work out which muscles need to work when you are up-side down). Josie, the teacher, came over to gently hold my hips to steady me, and then I managed to get both feet up! I didn’t hold it for that long, but it was a great feeling of accomplishment!  I don’r even think I ever managed one when I was a child in my gymnastics club. This week I was feeling grotty (I’ve had a sore throat since Sunday and a stiff neck, and have been losing my voice) and I wasn’t even sure I would go. I am really glad I did- we focused on inversions so it was a little gentler than usual. Although the headstand we did was the other one (with elbows on the floor) so I am much further away  from managing that one.  I felt so much better when I got home- the final relaxation part was bliss, with some geranium oil to help with the focus.

Things are starting to get busier though- we’ve had a few extra staff meetings and this has meant running being pushed to one side (last week I went to a cluster meeting at another school, which was great, but it meant I got home later. I could have gone for a run, but I had work to do and knew that it would just mean a super late night which I didn’t really need). Today I’ve got an extra meeting and then am going out for dinner with friends, so there won’t be time for a run then either. I think as we get closer to December this is going to happen more and more!

So, a few bits:

After my run on Sunday a few weeks ago I really fancied some salt and vinegar peanuts. When I first heard of these, I thought they sounded horrible. But then, I love vinegar and I love peanuts, so in the end curiosity got the better of me.

They are so tasty- I don’t think they should work, but they really do. (Not good when you have a sore throat though).

After having my chip scanned at the Brighton and Hove parkrun, I was given a leaflet with discounts by a member of the Vegan Runners club. One of the places on it was Eden, a perfume shop. Now, I do sometimes get perfume from places like Lush or Yves Rocher, but I also do buy the gift sets in the January sales from the normal perfume places. I sort of knew that they might not always contain nice things (I put the thought of actual musk to one side), but I hadn’t given it a lot of thought until then. The shop is pretty amazing- on the wall are mounted loads of bottles- it looks like a bar (click on the link if you are curious as it’s pretty impressive I think). Each bottle has a description of the scent, and they had leaflets telling you “if you like this high street perfume, then choose this number”. I spent ages in there smelling the samples, and then bought a couple.  You choose the size and then you can also have old bottles refilled for less- I think the bottles I got should have been £15 each but with the discount it was £13. I’m a convert anyway, so once my old perfume has been used up I will not be buying more from Boots.

Is life starting to get busy for you? Which combinations of food do you think are wrong but actually work so well? Have you ever thought about what is in you perfume?

Marshaling fun and a not so enjoyable race

On Saturday I was off to marshal at Ellenbrook. I’d asked to be on one of the earlier points as my dad’s cousin was coming down from Milton Keynes to run it (we ran with him in Linford Wood earlier in the year), and we were all going to have breakfast together after. They had kindly accommodated me, so after getting my high viz, lanyard and instrument (I chose a cool looking rain stick from Peru), and briefly seeing Dad and Tony get off their bikes and Brian arrive from the car park, I headed off to my spot.

It was a gorgeous morning- blue skies and not too much wind. I was glad I had wrapped up warm. I was looking forward to cheering on all of the runners- I don’t marshal very often as I do like to actually run, but of course the idea is that everyone takes a turn, and the day before a half seemed a good day to rest.

Ellenbrook has a small loop to begin with, and then a larger loop, so I was on Marshal point 2, directing runners first back towards the start (they turned left), and then on their next lap a right turn towards the fields and the bigger lap. As I was waiting, one of my friends, Elaine, turned up, walking her dog. She marshaled last week (taking the excellent flying feet photo) and as she was running a race on Sunday she had decided to walk while her daughter was handing out the tokens. She took photos of the runners as they came through the second time- one of the OH ladies was running her 100th parkrun (and got a pb too!). I commented that usually the front runners don’t lap the tail walker, and then low and behold, as the tail walker came into view so did the front runner, steaming past. I had an arrow so I had to do a bit of jiggling to show them which way to go (left on the first lap, right on the second).  Once they had gone through we walked back to the start, just in time to see Brian and Tony finishing. It was so cold so we didn’t hang around for long.  We then had a lovely breakfast (pancakes- I thought Mum would do them an English breakfast but she knew I was coming so went for those instead) and a great catch up. Brian is a total parkrun convert- next week he moves into the next age category (75-79!)- he’s pretty speedy but at his local parkrun there are two other guys in the same bracket as him consistently going closer to 20 minutes- impressive!

Later we braved the rain to walk into town, and I did a bit of baking (caramel apple blondies) before an evening with the fire beckoned.

On Sunday I was running the Herts half marathon, at Knebworth, a big stately home and grounds by Stevenage. They have hosted big concerts there before (the one in the Oasis documentary) and the medal looked pretty cool. Anyway,  I had heard it was going to be hilly so I was prepared to not chase a time but just enjoy the scenery. The race info told people to get there by 7.45, which seemed early seeing as the race number were posted out and the race didn’t begin until 9.30. They also said if you arrived after 8.50 you would have to use the overflow car park, 1km from the start, which I thought sounded fine (and sort of contradicted the advice of getting there so early). I live around 15 mins from the start and wasn’t planning on using the bag drop or the toilets, so leaving at about 8.20 am seemed to me like I had left plenty of time. But no, a mile from the exit of the motorway I joined the queue of traffic, and it was just barely moving. It took me 50 minutes to do that final mile- I finally parked at 9.25, to find out that it wasn’t a km, but a mile away (and according to google maps, more like 1.3 miles). I ran most of the way, and a lot of it was uphill- not a good start. At least I hadn’t planned to use the bag drop (it told you not to, and said keep everything in your car, but there would be an “informal” bag drop, whatever that means- do they say “hey” instead of “hello?”) but I did have to put my timer chip on my trainers as I hadn’t decided the night before which shoes to wear.

As I got to the top of the hill, the race started with the speedy runners haring towards me (and all the people watching). There seemed to be a lot of runners so I managed to run around to the back (nearly tripping on a low fence) and put my chip on my laces and tried to take some deep breaths. A stressful start! Some people didn’t even begin until nearly 10am so I wasn’t the last by a long shot.

So, onto the race. I had heard that it was hilly, but I don’t really know the roads around there at all. It was really tough. The first 6 miles went by OK- I was keeping a fairly steady pace and although I stopped to take a few photos, I didn’t feel I needed to.

One sign said “enjoy the downhill”- not easy when you know you have to run up it later on… The “enjoy the music” sign was just before a guy playing a steel pan brilliantly which cheered me up no end.

The course started in the grounds of the house, and after 1.7 miles (or according to the announcer, “2 miles on the dot”) we ran back through the finish line before heading out into the surrounding country lanes.

We then had a long bit of out and back- you turned at 5.5 miles so I had a long time to watch for faster runners on the other side of the road. At around 6 miles I started to get a sore leg- this happened to me at the Bright10 in 2016- it felt a bit like my leg was twisting around. After that happened I kept having to stop and walk and stretch it out. I am not sure what causes it- I think perhaps running on a sloping road where one leg is constantly higher than the other.

The hills were constant too- it felt like you were only ever going up or down, and a lot of it was fairly steep so the downhills were just as tough on the quads. I really struggled to keep going at times. I realised that I had left my clif blocks in my car (argh- what use are they there???), and at the final water station I took a bottle with me. I also spent a long time feeling grumpy as I saw all the discarded bottles and caps by the sides of the roads and in the bushes and woods- I really don’t like bottles anyway because plastic is just so bad for the environment (and it wastes so much water) but if they must have them, why not provide a bin??? I made sure I took little sips as my throat was sore from the cold air. Even the 10 mile point with just a parkrun to go felt like the end would just never be in sight. I ended up messaging Andy at one point while I stretched out my leg as I was really struggling to keep going. From my fastest mile of 9.37 (mile 5) I slowed to 13.08 for mile 10.  With around 2 miles to go I started to see a few finishers with their medals, and could hear the announcer. At one point I could hear a band playing “Live Forever” by Oasis (there was a little stage at the finish area), but they didn’t seem to be playing all of the time.

As you might be able to see on the Strava image above, the final mile was uphill (I’d already run it once on the run from the car park)- this was so tough and demoralising. The path hadn’t been roped off so I had to weave in and out of the people who had finished, wearing their medals, on my way to the top.

When I finally finished the medal was handed to me, I was given a banana and a carrier bag, and then had to wander through and collect the items- a medium t-shirt because they had run out of small (grr), a little bottle of water and a clif bar.  I sat on a little fence for a bit and ate the banana and just tried to summon up the energy to walk again.

It was a  really cold day (2 degrees when I left the car) and my hoodie was in the car-  I had worn a long sleeved top but of course that was sweaty and not doing much to keep me warm. I put the t-shirt on and then saw lots of people with hot drink cups, so I found a little van selling hot chocolate and got myself  a gingerbread one (although that seemed to mean it came with a mini gingerbread biscuit?- I thought it would be spiced hot chocolate). I saw a few runners from the club and chatted to them briefly (one of them managed to run it in under 2 hours!) but I was getting so cold and had a long walk back to the car.

I also took one to show how much I hated it but Andy has said I really should use the happy photo instead- happy to have finished!

Then there was more chaos as no-one was manning the car park (which was basically a field anyway), so I think I finally got home at around 1pm. I did some yoga stretches and then had a lovely hot shower while Andy warmed up some cinnamon rolls in the oven and made a big pot of tea- then I started to feel a bit more human as I slowly warmed up.

So- the pros of the run:

Close to home

Lovely scenery

Great marshals (they had tambourines, one guy was blowing through a traffic cone like a trumpet, some had music playing)

Cool medal (it has cartoons of Liam Gallagher and someone else as Oasis played Knebworth before)

Not too expensive (£32- not the cheapest but you get a technical t-shirt although also see below)

Free photos- they have all been uploaded to facebook and emailed out and people can do with them what they like


Hilly route

Bad organisation with parking- there was no need for the gridlock at the end

Not enough small t-shirt sizes

Rubbish (or non-existent) goodie bag

No foil blanket- considering it was such a cold day I thought it was a poor oversight

No bins for the water bottles en route

Did I mention the hills?

So, I won’t be doing it again!  But I think that with a few tweaks it could be a really good event- things like the photos were a nice (unexpected) touch.

I didn’t do much for the rest of the day- we had a lovely baked sweet potato for lunch and then went to see Only The Brave in the cinema (which I thought was very good- based on a true story of a fire crew who tackle wild fires). I woke up on Monday with a really sore throat (and super stiff legs) so I do wonder if I struggled more if I am coming down with something.

Are there races that you have said “never again” about? The “Great” runs are on my list.