Doing something that scares me

So I mentioned in my post the other day that I had offered to do the new runner briefing at parkrun on Saturday. After marshaling last week, I fancied running this week (and there was a chance that my dad could make the run too, so I didn’t want him to have to wait around for me), but they were short of volunteers, so I went for something that meant I could still run.

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Who would not want to run here? And what a beautiful blue sky we were treated to as well.

When I turned up, I was given a laminated sheet (again, love the laminating) that summarised the main points (and the order to give them in)- course guide first, so that regular parkrunner tourists could listen to the first part and leave, and then guidelines for new runners (dogs on leads/ children close by) and an explanation of how the barcode scanning worked. I was given a high viz jacket, just so I looked official for the briefing, and then spent the time chatting to other volunteers- I am starting to know a few more faces which is good.

Then the run director got his megaphone out and announced that I would be doing the briefing- quite a few people came over- I am not sure what I expected really but I suddenly was so nervous that my legs were shaking! The run director said the main thing was to be welcoming, and I think my enthusiasm for parkrun in general came through.

Thankfully I only had one question, and once that was answered it was time to quickly hand back the jacket and notes, and find a place at the start.

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The run was really enjoyable- I think I was so relieved to get the talking out of the way! The weather was lovely- sunny but with a breeze to generally keep cool (well, not too hot). At a couple of points I got stuck behind people running next to each other, and in the final push I asked a couple of ladies if they would mind if I passed them (they didn’t)- I get a bit claustrophobic almost if I am running really closely behind other people. I didn’t look at my watch at all, and in fact forgot to stop my Garmin until I was stood in the queue waiting to have my barcode scanned. It was another mega turnout with nearly 300 runners!

There was a WI stall selling cakes for charity, so after scanning my chip I was having a look at them, when a man came up to me and thanked me for my “pep talk”- it was his first parkrun and he was really pleased that he had managed a pb. When I asked if he enjoyed it, he was very positive, and said he would be back. I was so pleased to hear that (and not just because it meant my nerves weren’t too bad)- parkruns are just brilliant and I love it when other people love them just as much.

2015-07-18 10.56.29I bought myself a slice of lemon drizzle, although I haven’t had it yet as I was going out for lunch on Saturday and ended up having some carrot cake then.

I think after doing the briefing once, I would do it again. I have not yet done a role that I haven’t enjoyed, although I have not been brave enough to be a timekeeper yet- that looks like the most pressure to me!

If you do parkrun, what is your favourite volunteer role? What have you done that scares you? Anyone else hate public speaking this much?


Parkrun persuading

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The start was just visible to me, where the brown field ends, next to the tall trees, but ant-sized people did not come out on my phone. I just love how the whole course looks though.

Hooray for the weekend- I am already looking forward to a parkrun tomorrow morning, and this weekend I will be running it (and doing the new runner briefing- eek!)- last weekend I had decided to marshal, because I had the 10 mile race the next day and it was going to be hot. I know, I could run it gently, but it is easy to get carried away once I start, so I decided to be sensible.

I was really looking forward to it- I knew some OH ladies were coming along, and I had promised them an extra big cheer. I was there at around 8.20 in the end (normally you have to park a bit away, but the marshals can use the car park at the start)- I had left earlier too because I knew I would need to help with set up and allow time to walk to the marshal point.

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They are so organised there- every marshal point is numbered, and each marshal gets a laminated (the teacher in me loves anything laminated) map, a photo showing where to stand, instructions as to how to direct runners, and phone numbers of the run directors- love it. After handing out the other ones, I was sent to the point about half a kilometre from the end. On the way there, I came across a dead rabbit on the path, but luckily one of the people setting up was heading past so I asked him to tell the run director- I didn’t think it was that nice to be on the path, and someone moved it.

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As the laminated photo indicated I was to stand under this sign.

After walking there, I had a while to take some photos before the first runners came through (at around 9.15 I think – so impressive).

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It really is so pretty there, and so calming too.

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I had to direct the runners to their left, and then right at the next arrow. But of course for the most part they are following the people in front. I was cheering and clapping each person that came by- it was a hot day and so I was impressed with everyone running. Because they were coming out of a field and into the wooded area I could tell people that they had a nice shady section before the final “slope”- one person told me I knew just what to say to the runners!

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All ready with my high viz, lanyard of info and rucksack with water, very glad to be in a shady spot.

I saw some of the OH ladies- for some of them it was their first visit to Panshanger so I wanted them to enjoy it- at least they were all smiling when they passed me so I am hoping they will come back (and one of them got a bonus high-five for extra energy)! I do love how many runners say thank you (or gasp it- I know what that’s like)- I always try and say “good morning/ thank you marshal” to each one, and it is so lovely being on the other end of that too. After the first couple of runners, people were coming through in a steady stream, but after around 25 minutes of constant runners, it started to tail off a bit. One man went the wrong way (only a few steps) so I had to call him back, but he was very thankful and scolded himself for not looking at the arrow properly!

After the tail runner came through, I shut the main gate and unclipped the signs before walking back. The OH ladies were at the top so I had a quick chat and congratulated them for running in the heat, before taking the signs back to the car.

I know I keep on about it, but honestly parkrun is one of my favourite times of the week. The running is part of it, of course, but really it is the whole atmosphere of everyone enjoying being out in the fresh air, everyone supporting and encouraging each other, children and people of all ages and abilities getting outside and being active, and the core team who run it every week. On Saturday it was the run director’s birthday! How fantastic that he had decided to come to parkrun on his birthday- I don’t feel I know many people there, but he is in one of the bigger clubs and so I suppose it’s even more social. I shall keep on persuading my OH ladies to come along there.

Weekend plans? I am feeling super jealous of all the teachers who finished today! We go on until the middle of next week. Anyway, after parkrun tomorrow morning I am off out for lunch which should be lovely.


Ware 10 miles- race number 45!

The other day I was looking at my race calendar (I keep links to all of my race recaps on a page so I can easily see times etc), and worked out that the 10 mile race this weekend would be my 45th race! I would not have guessed that many. Now I know that, I want to make it to 50 before the end of the year. That sounds easy and I have three 10K’s booked, but not many free weekends left after those (and of course,  I need to find ones I can travel to easily). We shall see…

Anyway, Sunday morning I was off to the Ware 10 mile race. For the past two years I have completed it, but usually it is in the autumn. This year they moved it to the summer, to be part of the festival of running. They had free kids races, and had added a 10K, so it had even more of a community feel. I was worried about the heat because a lot of the course is not in the shade, but the weather was on our side.

It is just the sort of low key event that I love- turn up 45 minutes before, pick up your number from the tent, drop your bag into another tent, and have a chat to other runners before the start. There were some port-a-loos, (no queues) but I do not like to use them, so just distracted myself by chatting before the race started- it’s all nerves anyway!

Lots of OH ladies were doing the 10K, so we had a team photo before the start, and then they cheered me on, as the 10 mile started about 15 minutes before the 10K (which seems much more sensible- at the St Albans half the 5K goes an hour before the half, so that people are collecting their bags after finishing the 5K just as the half marathon runners are dropping bags off).

Like my jazz hands? This was me excited before the start!

Anyway, the route was slightly different in a few places, but basically two 5 mile loops- the first 2 miles were hilly (including some very short sharp steep ones) and the last 3 miles were flat, around playing fields and along by the river- such lovely views.

As always, there were marshals everywhere cheering everyone along. I wasn’t aiming for  pb because I don’t run well in the summer, and have not run much further than a 10K since the half I don’t think. I started with my running buddy, but she is a bit faster so headed off after a mile or so. I was going OK- I wanted to keep under 10 minute miles and mostly I was managing it. Going along the river at the end of the first lap I caught up with a group of Fairland Valley runners, so I stayed at their pace, but then as it was hot I decided to stop at the half way point water station to have a few sips of water, so I lost them at that point. I got a bit of a stitch after that, but the marshals helped (it’s the last time you have to see me/ think of the cake etc)- I walked a few steps of the steepest hill because the stitch wasn’t going and one of my calf muscles was getting tight, and the lovely marshal at the top told me this was the furthest point from the finish, so every step was a step closer to cake. The cake is a big thing in this race!

After that was out of the way I picked up the pace again, and caught up with the group of runners by the river again. Then, as I came into the field to do the final loop, all the OH ladies (who had finished their 10K’s) were cheering me on in different places- it was lovely to have that boost right at the end.

My lovely running buddy had finished a few minutes ahead of me, so she bought us some cake and we had a photo- the homemade cake is mostly the point of this race!

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I can’t flip the photo around, but I am sure you can see it!

I picked up my lovely high viz t-shirt too- the size was written on the number so they were ticking them off- very organised and it means that even if you finish last, you get the right size.

Chip time- 1.37.47

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In anticipation of the rain I had packed a t-shirt to change into for the journey home (excuse my expression here- not sure what that’s about)- although it was dry, I was glad to take off my vest.

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After a shower I had a snack of muesli and yoghurt, plus watermelon coconut water, as then I was off for afternoon tea. I didn’t even take a photo of the afternoon tea, but it was perfect to lounge around and catch up after a busy morning.

I think 50 races before the end of 2015 sounds like something good to aim for. My running buddy is aiming to do 50 half marathons, and is well on her way, so perhaps that would be the next one.

How many races have you completed? Do you have a particular goal in mind?

Being a fitness first

A while ago I was contacted to see if I wanted to try out a Fitness First gym, and as there is one in the town where I work, so I thought I would give them a go.

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As well as a gym pass, I was sent a rucksack and a fitbit.

This week I went after work on Wednesday, as I needed to get a few bits in town (although I ended up leaving so late, I missed the bank). As I normally run on a Wednesday, I decided to go on the treadmill, and because I am not a huge treadmill fan, I went for a 5K hill session. This made it more interesting as the treadmill kept changing the incline level (at one point I had to slow it down as it was so tough)- I was dripping by the end. I had my phone with me and was trying to listen to podcasts, but even with the volume up at the highest I could not hear it over the sound of the treadmill belt.

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I always feel a bit dizzy after getting off a treadmill too, so walked around a bit before showering and heading home. Now, my first visit wasn’t that great. I think after work is a very busy time, so I had to wait a long time to swap my card over for a pass, and then I was just left to it- I wandered about and found the changing rooms and showers, but had no idea how to work the lockers so had to keep my bags with me- OK in the gym, but the shower cubicles were very small so I had to leave them outside and hope no-one would move them.

It was OK but I would much rather have run a 5k outside. Although I was telling myself that the hill training will help me on Sunday (the first part of the 10 mile route does contain some hills).

Anyway, I decided to give it another go on Friday morning before work (I still went to Body Pump as usual on Thursday as I love that).

2015-07-10 06.37.55I was a bit confused about when to get there- the gym opens at 6, but the car park didn’t open until 7. I really should be in work for 8, so I turned up at 7 on the dot, but I think in fact the car park would have been OK to use earlier as there were already plenty of cars there.

This visit was more successful- the person at the front desk helped me out as on the previous visit it turned out I had been given the wrong card, and should have handed it back when I left (but this wasn’t explained on Wednesday). I was given a quick tour of the gym, shown where the studios were, told how to work the lockers, and then left to it. Although this was useful, it was eating into my time because I had to leave there by 7.45 to get to work. Anyway, after body pump I often get really achy legs, and I didn’t fancy the treadmill again, so I went for a bike this time. I only managed 20 minutes because time was ticking, but it was quite enjoyable. I listened to some marathon talk (the bike doesn’t make much noise) and rushed back for a speedy shower and a change (hooray for dry shampoo as no way did I have time for a hair wash and dry, even though they had nice hairdryers in the changing rooms). As I left I was even shown how to validate the parking (it’s a town centre location so was expensive on Wednesday when I had to park elsewhere).

Now I have a studio timetable, I will have a look and hopefully try out a class, because I think that is what would persuade me more than the equipment. I do want to give yoga or Pilates a try, but I need to work out if I could fit one in this week at some point. The timetable is pretty comprehensive- loads more classes than my local gym, and sorted into morning, afternoon and evening time slots so you can start to work out which one would suit you. There are lots of body pump classes, but I love my instructor and I don’t know if I would like it so much somewhere else.

Anyway, I am very glad I went again, because it was a much better impression this time!

The fitbit has been interesting too. It didn’t come with instructions, just a link to the fitbit setup website, but once that was sorted it seemed to work well. The website dashboard has loads of sections to track different aspects of health- it even tells me how much water to drink in a day! I have my vivofit, so at some points in the day I have been looking at both to compare the steps and distance (although at the moment the distance is in km so I need to work out how to change it) and the steps seem to be fairly similar, although sometimes the fitbit has been a bit higher. More on that once I have used it for a bit longer.

Are you a fan of the gym? Which classes do you prefer? 

*I was sent the pass and fitbit to use in exchange for a post. All opinions are my own.

Owl cake!

A while ago I was contacted by Stork, to see if I fancied creating any of their cakes using their new Stork with butter.

Well, I came across this amazing looking owl cake, and knew I had to have a go.

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They kindly sent me a voucher for the ingredients, so after buying what I needed, I set to work. Making the chocolate cake was fine- I liked the addition of the milk and lemon juice- you do that in a red velvet cake to imitate buttermilk and it makes the cake lovely and light. I baked it for less time though, but that might be down to my oven.

Then, the fun part.

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I kept the cake in the baking paper (I did loosen the paper) because my only tin big enough for a plate was at school after the bake sale.

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I made the owl eyes and beak with marzipan, because I like that more than sugar paste (and a minstrel for the centre of each eye). I put the first batch of buttercream on, and then disaster ensued. Basically, my kitchenaid mixer has two switches- one to raise and lower the top of the unit, and one to turn it on. I had raised the unit to add more cocoa powder to the icing (to make it darker) but instead of switching the right one to lower it, I moved the left one which turned it on. Now, you might think that it would not work if the unit was raised. Well, it does. So it sprayed chocolate buttercream all over me, all over the kitchen, all over the floor. Argh!

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Anyway, after stopping to clean up, I added the darker buttercream, and then some grated chocolate.

It was very well received on Sunday. I was really pleased with how it turned out. It looked very impressive, but actually (with a bit of patience) the end result was fairly simple and I would certainly make it again.

Any kitchen disasters?

*I was sent a voucher to cover the cost of ingredients. All opinions are my own.