Sherwood Pines 10K recap, mud, medal and a missed mile.

Years ago (in 2011) we went to Nottingham to do a 10K trail run through the Sherwood Pines forest and I loved it.  The recap is here if anyone is interested.

For the last few years we have not been free on the weekend of the race, but this year we were, so booked it again. Although this time it was on Saturday, originally at 11, then 1, and then moved to 12.30pm.

Anyway, we drove up on Friday night after dinner, and stayed in the centre of Nottingham. The race was about an hour’s drive away, so after a breakfast in the hotel (a hot cross bun for me, yes a bit random, but that is what Andy had bought) we headed out there. The setting is lovely, and a new parkrun has just started there too, but I thought that would be a bit much (plus a lot of hanging around in between). They have some cycle events on the same day, and a duathlon, and although it had rained a bit, we saw some cyclists covered head to toe in mud (and I do not exaggerate- completely covered faces and everything). We were hoping that was just because of the speed bikes go at that they flick the mud up.

2015-11-07 12.18.47

The blue sky appeared after we went to the bag drop.

2015-11-07 12.18.54

Anyway, after collecting our numbers we still had nearly an hour to wait, so we sat in the car for a bit as it was raining. I don’t normally use the toilets before a race, but here there is a proper building with real toilets, so I headed there, only to get caught in a burst of torrential rain. I was dripping all over, not good because under my coat all I had on was my vest, and I had to leave my coat in the car. Just after 12 we headed to the bag drop and waited around for the start.

2015-11-07 12.21.21

You can see the darker colour of my capris where they got soaked! I was very cold here! Although it was 16 degrees so not cold at all- I saw some people in woolly hats and long sleeved tops and loads of layers.

There were kids races going on so we watched those come in and then the 5k and 10k runners were called to the starting funnel. It was so muddy there- ankle deep puddles and thick squelchy mud. The guy starting said something like “the quicker you run, the faster you’ll warm up” as I think everyone looked cold after the rain shower.

Thankfully the rain didn’t start again, so I could enjoy the scenic route (instead of peering through wet glasses). It was really busy at the start, and everyone was trying to avoid most of the puddles as some of them were huge- this was hard when the person in front was so close- sometimes you saw the puddle in time, other times you didn’t. I heard a lot of people say it would thin out on the second lap due to the 5k runners finishing, but that made me wonder if anyone was doing the 5k! The route was undulating, mainly on forest tracks but at some points there were rivers of water running down the tracks. I didn’t have a time goal (not sure if this helped or hindered in the end though)- I hadn’t looked up my previous time but I knew it was over an hour as the first time I did that was in Brighton. I thought anything close to an hour would be good, especially with all the mud avoiding.

During the first lap I was overtaken by a really really smelly guy. It was like he had not had a shower for days, it was horrible, and even when I was a good few metres behind him I could still smell it. It was making me feel queasy, and I could not face another lap like that, but he didn’t seem to move any further ahead of me, so when we got to a hill and he slowed, I decided to power past him. That was good, but then for the next section every time I could hear a person coming up behind me, I panicked that it was him, and tried to speed up, and then gave myself a stitch. The overtaking on the uphill, and all the jumping to avoid the biggest puddles really took it out of my legs too- they were tiring quickly.

When we got to near the finish area, there was a marshal shouting at everyone “5k runners turn right to the finish, 10k runners straight on for the second lap”, which I did wonder about because I remember last time running through the start/finish area in the middle. I had mentioned it to Andy because last time they read your name out as you went by which gave me a bit of a boost, and also on the start line I was thinking about the awful mud and how we would have to run through that patch again. But anyway, I was focused on the smelly man more, so didn’t think that much.

It did really thin out on the second lap, but even with the same number of runners it would do I suppose. I really wanted to stop and take some photos as the sun was getting stronger and the trees looked fab in the late autumn sunlight, but then the man…. Anyway, he overtook me once again but I was too tired to try again, so instead eased off so he was further ahead. At the 9K mark my watch had only beeped for 5 miles, so I did think it was a bit off, but did I mention I was tired? I wasn’t too bothered! The finish area is up a hill, on a muddy used-to-be-grass field which made it tough, and then the finish straight was just a slippery slidey muddy mess. But there it was, and again the announcer was reading out names (and Old Hatfield Ladies got a mention! Woo!). I was handed a medal and a cup of water before I went to meet Andy.

2015-11-07 13.31.21

Not so cold any more!

2015-11-07 15.22.52

It’s a lovely medal, but I was expecting a t-shirt- I really liked the one from last time- it was cotton but a good fit, not a big baggy one, and had a nice logo on it, and I do still wear it now.

I saw a few things on their facebook page about the route- some said it was shortened due to health and safety, and some due to a marshal error. Whatever it was, I don’t mind, but I would be disappointed if I was going for a pb, or of it was my first 10K or first race. They had made a big deal this year that the distance was UKA certified, which makes it worse really, as normally trail runs I don’t think are the most accurate.

57.27 is my official time, but that was about 5.7 miles I think so half a mile short.

2015-11-07 13.55.18

OK so I don’t look that muddy here, but when I had to peel my socks off they were totally brown! These trail shoes are not waterproof like my old ones, and I had mud all up the back of my legs. We had packed jumpers and tracksuit bottoms to put on over our clothes (well, I took my capris off as they were soaked) as we had the drive back to Nottingham. Anyway, I was so hungry when we finished (it was around 1.30pm by this point) and there was a cafe right there, so we went for tea, and shared a slice of almond and cherry tray bake. Then we changed and headed back. After a shower and a banana (we had packed some) I felt so much better, so we headed out for a wander around the shops. We had booked dinner for 5.30pm, so it was too late for lunch.

2015-11-07 16.11.03

After a bit of walking we had a drink and shared a gingerbread muffin (amazing)- we normally share cake but as we had not had lunch, sharing two cakes = 1 cake each which isn’t too bad.

More shopping, then dinner (lovely Prezzo salad) and then to the cinema to see Spectre. Which was alright (I don’t think I have any spoilers but skip if you are worried!). I just don’t get all the raving though. I mean, it’s OK, but it’s not Bourne even though it really wants to be, and I don’t even think it’s as good as Mission Impossible- at least they know they are tongue in cheek. I won’t go on but I really feel like Bond needs to get into the 21st Century now- one second women are saying they won’t be seduced by him, and the next minute they are in bed together. I mean, I just sighed through a lot of it. And rolled my eyes. Sure, the action stuff is fun, and there were humorous moments, but it was a bit Austin Powers in places (I’m not going to kill you, I’m going to set some sort of trap that you can’t possibly escape from… oh, wait…), plus every time I see Daniel Craig pouting at the camera all I can think of is Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock saying “Haven’t you seen how blue my eyes are Lemon?“. Such a cheeseball! Anyway, nice to sit down after all that running and walking.

This morning we went out for breakfast, and had another wander around the town centre before driving home. Last time the run was on the Sunday so we had to drive home in our running kit- not quite as nice! I still enjoyed the run, but I would have preferred a t-shirt over a medal (because the t-shirt was unique and a good fit), and also we didn’t get anything apart from water at the finish line, whereas last time we got a banana and a little goody bag. I might have to hunt for some better trail shoes though- I got them on holiday back in May, and have worn them a few times but nothing as muddy as this. My lovely Panshanger parkrun does get to be a bit of a mudbath in the winter, so proper ones will get some use this winter.

Are you a fan of muddy runs? I don’t mind this sort of mud, but I don’t want to wade knee deep through anything!

Bond fan?  Give me Bourne any day of the week!

I found the ice! (Iceland part 2)

So after a few days with fairly long drives, on our first day in Vik we stayed close to home. It was drizzling a bit, so we wrapped up and walked down to the black sand beach.

2015-10-27 11.05.06

That little church in the distance looked down on the town and out to sea. The mountains were hazy with the rain.

2015-10-27 11.06.44

The black sand was very impressive, and so soft, almost like powder.

2015-10-27 11.22.36

Further along was a statue for all fishermen- there is an identical one in Hull, as it celebrates the trade between the two places, and honours people who spend their lives in the Atlantic.

2015-10-27 11.48.08

We walked a fair way, and could see the jagged stones jutting up into the sea (they were trolls that were towing a boat to shore, but the sunlight turned them to stone before they reached land). The contrast of the white snow and black sand was impressive too.

We then turned to walk back to our hotel, and realised that our backs were soaked. The rain had started off being misty (more like we were in the cloud) had got harder, and was pretty much sideways. We had been walking on the beach for over an hour, so headed back for some hot chocolate.

2015-10-27 12.15.42

Any of my hair that had been poking out of my hat or hood was soaked, and somehow my coat had leaked a bit at the elbows. Plus my jeans were soaked through. We knew that around the headland was another interesting beach, so we braved the weather and drove there.

2015-10-27 13.21.41

It was so windy there! At one point I was being pushed along so hard I was running and bracing against the wind at the same time! It had these amazing stone columns, and caves all along the beach.

2015-10-27 13.22.04

The waves were immense too- we had been warned not to turn our back on the sea as they can sweep people away.

2015-10-27 13.38.23

In the summer puffins nest there, but we were too late for that. We were soaked and freezing (to the point where my hands were shaking) so we went to the cafe for tea and cake to warm up, and to brave the walk back to the car!

2015-10-27 13.52.06

After that, we were finished for the day! We spent the late afternoon warming up, reading and relaxing, before heading out to dinner. There was a restaurant in the town that made home-made pizzas (and actually even had a veggie burger on the menu) so we walked there (in the rain…) for a very nice dinner.

The next morning we were up early (before the sunrise) as we had a long drive ahead of us.

2015-10-27 10.21.13

Our hotel did do breakfast, but it was fairly pricey, and we had bought some mini cinnamon rolls from a supermarket before driving there, so a couple of those with some tea was our breakfast every day.

2015-10-28 11.14.47

We had about a 2 1/2 hour drive, as we were going to the south-eastern point of Iceland. We stopped on the way to take photos of glaciers. At points we were driving across huge lava fields, and we saw hardly any traffic (or buildings, or petrol stations…)- the isolation reminded us of when we drove through Nevada, and the scenery was like Big Island in Hawaii. Amazing.

As we approached a car park we could see these huge icebergs poking up above a mound by the side of the road. This was what the long drive was for.

2015-10-28 12.07.23

Here, in Jökulsárlón, icebergs break off a glacier and float out to see. The range of colours was just amazing- some were such a deep blue, others as clear as glass, some frosted and misty, some smooth, some textured, some with dark grey streaks from volcanic eruptions. In the silence you could hear drips and the occasional crash as ice sheared off larger icebergs.

2015-10-28 12.59.41

I found the ice!

After a hot chocolate in the cafe (there is a bit of a theme to this holiday it seems) we drove to the other car park on the sea-side. (Seems lazy, but you could not walk between the two car parks as they were on opposite sides of a one-lane bridge)

2015-10-28 13.06.37

The black sand beach was strewn with ice. We walked for a long way up the beach, taking many many photos!

2015-10-28 13.16.27

We saw a few seals swimming in the water too. We probably spent nearly 2 hours here, so it was well worth it.

When we returned to Vik, it was pouring with rain, so we had a tea in the hotel bar before heading out to dinner.

On Thursday we were driving back to Reykjavik, this time staying in the centre so we could see some of the city. We had wanted to visit The Blue Lagoon, and although most people do that on their way to or from the airport (it’s between the airport and the city) we decided we didn’t want to pack wet swimming things, and also didn’t want to worry about the time it would take to change, return the car etc, so we did it on our penultimate day.

2015-10-29 12.20.26

Rain was forecast, but when we arrived it was clear. We had booked for 1pm as we had about a 3 hour drive, but we arrived a little early and were let in just fine.

I had read reviews before I went, so I was prepared for a few things: We didn’t want to waste luggage space on a towel, so we booked the second option which included towel hire, a drink, and a skincare pack. I wanted a bathrobe too, but in the end I was fine without one. I had packed a colourful bag for life, and we used that for our towels. Of course, all the towels you hire are the same (dark grey) and they have a good system, with numbered pegs, but I had read a lot of people muddle them up, or forget, and I wanted to keep my towel dry for getting dressed after, so we hung our towels in the bag for life, which as well as meaning they were not mixed up, kept them dry when it rained and hailed (yes).

2015-10-29 14.53.07

Now, I am not one to use communal changing rooms, and I knew they had a few individual cubicles, but I thought I might have to queue, but no, as soon as I arrived the first one I saw was empty. They do insist that you have a naked shower before you go into the water, but as well as open showers again they have some with doors, and when I arrived that was fine. I had read on the FAQ page that the water dries out your hair, and although they have hair dryers I didn’t want to wash my hair there, so I tired it up, although it was so windy that a lot of strands did get wet (I should have worn a sweatband style thing). I wished I had a shower cap in the bag with our towels, because the shower heads were on the ceiling right in the middle of the cubicle, so it was hard to turn the shower on without getting wet hair!

The worst bit was waiting for Andy to change (turned out he was upstairs and I was downstairs)- as I had my shower and although I was waiting inside, the door kept opening and letting the cold air in. It wasn’t too many steps to the main pool, and then it was so lovely and warm.

I didn’t use any of the mud stuff on my face, but plenty of people were. Your entry includes a wrist band which opens your locker, and also serves as a wallet so if you buy anything, you charge it to your wristband. Our entry included drinks, so after enjoying the warm water and going to the sauna for a bit, we went to the bar- you stayed in the water and just reached your arm out for them to scan your wristband. They only served cold drinks though- I fancied a cup of tea, but had a blueberry smoothie. This was good but you had to hold it out of the water so one hand got really cold! It then started raining, and then hailing, and we had been there for nearly 2 hours, so decided to head back inside. There was a big queue for the showers at this point so I had to stand about shivering for a bit, and in the end opted for an open shower and just kept my cossie on.

There was shower gel and conditioner in the cubicles, and the changing room had an empty cubicle so again I headed in there to change.

Then we drove into the city centre, checked in to our hotel and went out for some cake (well, we hadn’t had any lunch, so a chai latte and half a lemon muffin was our substitute…) .

2015-10-29 17.05.01

Then we had a lovely wander around as the sun was setting, before finding somewhere for dinner we went to The Laundromat Cafe, although there were lots of places with good veggie options (including Glo, the place Anna went to which sounded amazing).

2015-10-29 18.04.30

This was vegan toast- basically toast with home-made hummus, home-made beetroot and date chutney, baked aubergine, salad, seeds and cashews. They had a veggie section on their menu so I could have a pretty good choice. Plus, the tea was loose leaf and came in a pot!

2015-10-29 18.45.21

Another wander before heading back to our hotel.

For our final morning, our hotel included breakfast, so after that we headed down to the water for a lovely walk.

2015-10-30 09.30.24

There was a cycle path next to the pedestrian path, and it went as far as we could see around the bay.

2015-10-30 09.30.57

We walked to this sculpture of a boat just as two coach parties arrived- although their driver was rather impatient and started the engine after a few minutes!

2015-10-30 09.39.32

Then we walked to the large concert hall.

2015-10-30 09.48.08

And then back into the town.

2015-10-30 10.02.43

I loved the little colourful buildings.

2015-10-30 10.07.33

2015-10-30 10.37.14

We even found this handy map which showed us just how far we had travelled- the icebergs were on the bottom of the big ice cap on the right.

Then it was time for us to check out, head back to the airport and head home. Even the airport food was good- they had a Joe and the Juice, so I had a lovely sandwich with really nice thin crispy bread- avocado, tomato and mozzarella, and we shared a fresh juice. Mmmm.

2015-10-30 16.09.17

That is mostly ice, not cloud in the photo. 

We even had amazing views out of the plane window (and I enjoyed the plane journey even more because we bought those tickets using air miles).

It was a brilliant trip. I would love to go back and see some of the north/ east areas, and I think going in warmer weather would be good- more wildlife and different views again. We didn’t get to see the Northern lights- on clear days it was low solar activity, and on the higher activity days it was cloudy where we were. But that’s just another reason to go again.

Also, I was expecting it to be really expensive, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not cheap, but also it isn’t too bad, and nothing compared to Norway (I think one small piece of cake in Norway was about £9!). Most places where we bought a hot drink each we spent about £5, which for two hot drinks isn’t bad. Our hotel meal cost more, around £35 I think, but then it did include free bread, and Andy had a beer. We got cash out at the airport, and spent it on drinks, but even the remote places we went to accepted cards, so I think we could have managed without any cash at all. So, if you are tempted, go! But maybe bring waterproof trousers if you are going in the winter (or just a ski suit).

Problem solving

7pm. On a Sunday.

(Sunny style)

Last night I actually dreamt I was doing a maths exam, and the final section had some mysterious word problems. Well, it turned out that today I ended up doing some practical maths problem solving.

2015-10-31 12.19.22

On Saturday I started my annual Christmas cake baking preparations by soaking the dried fruit. I normally go for a Rachel Allen recipe but since loving every single CCC recipe so far, I decided to try their one. I normally make one for us, one for my parents, one for Andy’s parents, and keep one as a birthday cake for Andy later on, so I normally double a recipe for a large one, and that makes 4 small ones. I didn’t compare each recipe and I think this one ended up being slightly more!

Well soaking the fruits is the easy part, today came the hard part. This new recipe used grated carrot and apple, and this resulted in me spending about 20 minutes searching for the little stick thing that goes in the food processor under the grater instrument- and of course, it turned out to be in the correct case all the time, just hidden behind another blade. Grrrr! Creaming the butter and sugar was fine (I used my lovely Kitchenaid) but then grating in lemon and orange zest took ages! 4 oranges and 2 lemons.

2015-11-01 16.58.16

Once the eggs were added the kitchenaid was basically full. And the flour, almonds, spices, and all the fruit had not been added. No way was it going to fit. I had weighed the kitchenaid bowl beforehand, but I didn’t think to weigh any of the other bowls. I measured the flour, spices and almonds into two bowls (but one is smaller), then I had to weigh the kitchenaid bowl with the butter etc. in it, subtract the weight of the bowl, then divide it in two. Then pour half of this out into something else (no more bowls! What to use….)

2015-11-01 17.03.29

I found a big jug that would hold half the mixture. Then I had to work out what the fruit mixture weighed (1kg of fruit, plus 300g carrots, plus liquid, and how much do 4 apples weigh??) and put half of it into the kitchenaid bowl, along with one lot of flour. The other half of the ingredients were mixed in the big fruit soaking bowl.

2015-11-01 17.08.28

Oh my word it was getting stressful! I was worried the mixture would overflow when I turned it on, and I was running out of worktop space for all the bowls and jugs and spoons, and of course the cake tins!

2015-11-01 17.19.51

Somehow I managed to put the cake tins onto the big trays, but then when I went to put them on the shelves one tray would not fit so I had to put them directly on the oven shelf.

And then of course was the washing up mountain!

I just hope that they end up OK after all that. And I think next year I either need an enormous bowl, or I will bake them in two batches instead. That sounds less stressful!