The first parkrun tourism of 2016

Earlier in the week my lovely running club “Guv” shared that Gadebridge parkrun would be hosting a special guest (Special Olympic Ambassador Mitchell Camp, and the mayor) on Saturday. I then started having a look at the location and course, because I didn’t realise they had one there- it’s about a half an hour drive away, and has been going for less than a year.  I messaged my dad to see if he fancied it, but he was busy, and no-one from my club fancied it, so I decided to head there on my own and check it out.

I left at around 8.15am, a little earlier than usual, and I got there at 8.40am, so plenty of time to walk to the start. It wasn’t far from the car park at all, but it was so cold.

This is taken from the start- you can just about see the car park through the trees so it wasn’t far to walk at all.

Everywhere was frosty, and the fields were all rutted but frozen solid, There were plenty of icy puddles, and the pavements were sparkling. It was beautiful.

We had the most enthusiastic  marshal delivering the new runner briefing, and then in the normal run briefing the mayor talked briefly, although it was a bit hard to hear as I was behind a big group of tourists from the same running club. Then we were off!

The course was tough. It started on path, before straight away going onto a field- up, along, and down (over frozen mole-hills), then under an underpass, up the other side of the valley (and if you know Hemel, and Galley Hill, it is steep), along the ridge at the top, then steeply down, under the underpass, gently uphill to near the start, where you then get to do it all again. I really had to concentrate as the ground was so rutted (the spike imprints from previous runs were frozen solid)- I didn’t want to twist an ankle, and the cold air made it hard too.

I got a stitch (not sure if this is down to the nakd bar I had before leaving- I think my eating before parkrun experiment may have ended now), but the park was so pretty in the early morning sunlight, with all the frost everywhere. I enjoyed the run, looking at the surroundings, and even warmed up enough to take my gloves off after a mile! I was half tempted to take some pictures, but I had worn my flip belt as I didn’t know if I would take my jacket off or not (it has big enough pockets, but if I tie it around my waist then anything in the pocket bangs on my legs) and it’s hard to sort that out while running. I could not speed up on the flat ridge part because the ground was so frozen, but that was fine with me!

After I came out of the underpass for the final time I had a straight and gently uphill path to the finish, so I put on a bit of a sprint finish. There was someone taking photos and my shoulders are so hunched! Argh! I know I need to sort this but I don’t often realise until I finish that my shoulders ache.

From their facebook page.

I also thought that I was smiling!

Anyway, it was a really enjoyable run.

Time: 31.20, 65/100 runners (nice even number), 12th female and 4th in my age category. It’s funny, apart from San Francisco which had such a tiny field, I seem to hover around the 3rd or 4th age category placing. It’s a course pb of course (your first parkun at a new course always is) and my dad was keen to visit it, so I am sure I will be back.

I didn’t hang around in the end, as there was going to be a talk, but as soon as I stopped running I was totally freezing, so I headed back to my car to put my coat on. Then the day didn’t go so well- I had to stop off at the post office, and the queue was huge, and then I decided to have a hot drink once I finally got home, before having a shower. All of this meant that I didn’t eat breakfast (lunch) until 12.30 (although I had eaten the cereal bar).

I had a few hours of work to get through, and once that was done I popped to town, but the feeling of the stitch either came back, or it had not gone away, I’m not sure, but it was quite sore. I ended up having a lie down when I got home, and it really only went away when I went to sleep. I thought I had maybe pulled a muscle or something, but I don’t remember it aching when I was working, so I don’t know when it actually came on.

This morning I was awake before the alarm, and very excited to see snow! Most of the girls in the club were doing shorter runs, so I went out on my own for a lovely 9.5 mile run in the snow. I was fairly slow at first as I didn’t want to slip, but actually the snow was nice and soft (making that lovely creaking sound as I compacted it). I stopped for photos too, of course.

I ran around the lake twice- some of it was covered in ice.

I ran back through the fields, which was fine until I trod in a puddle (hidden by the snow) and my shoes filled with icy water. I sped up a bit then I think!

I cracked out the leg warmers this morning too!

I loved it though! And although about two miles in my stitch feeling reappeared for a bit (and I considered turning back) after a bit it went. After a quick shower we were off to brunch with some friends- we tried Coast to Coast, which was OK, but I don’t think I would rush back.

Anyway, my first parkrun tourism of the year was great, and I have already started looking at others nearby- I need to spread them out a bit but  there are a couple of others that I could visit now fairly easily. Panshanger is still my favourite though!

Lessons from bootcamp

So last week, Laura from had offered a free bootcamp to kick-start the new year. I am not one for juice fasts, or fad diets, but as I love Laura’s philosophy on finding a healthy balance, I thought it would be a great idea to join in.

What I loved about it was the focus on the positives- Laura had created tick sheets (I put notes into mine) and the idea was to focus on things like how many glasses of water had been drunk in a day, how many portions of veggies, plus other areas of life such as “me time” and self-care.

Our first task was to de-clutter something (could be something small like your handbag)- I went for my cookery book shelf, and I think I got rid of around 40 books! I had a BBQ cookery book- first, we don’t even own one, and really, as a vegetarian, the book didn’t contain many recipes! I had be meaning to do it for ages, so it was a great reason for me to sort through them and only keep ones with recipes I actually use.

I went on to sort out my desk (I do have files for payslips and bills but had kept just shoving them in the drawer when I ran out of time to sort them), and later in the week I sorted a couple of drawers and my old coats- the charity bag went out this morning. Another task (that links to the de-cluttering) was to think about barriers- I took this on a tangent- as we had said that in the new year we would talk about moving (turns out we have been here for 10 years)- it kicked us into gear and we looked through our finances, contacted a few estate agents and have started the process.  I am very glad of the de-cluttering as we had a few agents over to value, and then are having one to take photos later in the week.

The plan is to keep on de-cluttering different areas each weekend.

I did my “happy list” and it will be good to peek at every now and then to check I am doing things from it. Something that rang true with me was Laura saying that just like on a plane, where you put your own mask on before helping others, you need to take care of yourself first. With my job (which I do love) I do find sometimes that I am constantly working, or thinking of work (until one task this week to create an inspiration board, all of my pinterest boards were to do with school), and really at some points I need to not work, and not feel guilty about having an evening off. Last Wednesday we went to see Star Wars (Andy had already seen it… twice…) and it was a rush to get work finished once I got home, but it was worth it to do something else in the week.

I really love listening to podcasts, and now with my car, I can plug my phone into the sound system, so I have started making a point of doing that. I realised that while I like listening to the radio, the constant reminders of the time would make me a bit stressed- if I was not by a certain roundabout by Thought for the Day, I would worry about being late and so on. So now, I download some podcasts and listen to those on my commute. Also, it feels like I am in a bit of a bubble, whereas listening to news (especially if they get people from the government talking about education) could get a bit stressful. I can’t quite explain it but I much prefer it. That’s something from my happy list every day!

One day the task was to try out a new recipe. I only saw this on Saturday (after a muddy parkrun)- I had seen this recipe on Lucie’s blog a while back, and fancied making the topping (although I forgot the raisins)- the maple and apple was delicious (plus a bit more maple syrup on the pancakes), and much better than the easy nutella option.

I do love trying new recipes (although mainly cake ones, not so much meals as Andy does that most of the time now) but sometimes I get stuck in baking the same things over and over. I did start working through the CCC book, so I think once our weekends get back to normal I must start looking through it again. Projects like battenberg cakes (yes Mark Kermode, some people love them!) are so nice to do at the weekend if I have a bit more time.

Finally, I did think a bit about food. Last Tuesday I had a long day with meetings before and after work, I got home with 5 minutes to change before heading out to running club, then it was home, shower, dinner, finish work, dry my hair, and then I realised I hadn’t sorted out my lunch. The temptation to have my “easy” lunch (which is hummus and ryvita- no prep needed) was so tempting, but it would not up my veggie count, and I had all the ingredients waiting. So I sorted out a salad (for the next 3 days) using a pouch of ready cooked lentils and quinoa, avocado, spinach, baby corn, beetroot and a little hummus on top. It was so much nicer than my standby, and I was glad to spend that little bit of extra time sorting it, and need to remember that in weeks to come.

So, all in all, a really successful week and I must thank Laura for organising it.

Maple syrup, smoothies and protein powder

(Not all at once, don’t worry!)

Over the last few weeks I have been sent a few bits to try out- some I have already mentioned, but here they all are.

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Neat Nutrition vegan protein powder

They sell a range of protein powders, and I was sent the vegan one, made with pea and hemp protein, plus xylitol, xanthan gum and stevia.

This was sent to me in two flavours- chocolate and vanilla (but they also sell a plain and berry flavoured one). I did try one as a shake, and although it blended better than some other protein powders, it was still lumpy. The taste was fine though. It does contain stevia as a sweetener, which often I find tastes very metallic, but there does not seem to be too much in here. I tried mixing a spoonful into porridge (after it was cooked- not sure if you should cook it?) and that was better. Probably the best protein powder I have tried, although I am not convinced that I would buy some for myself as I just forget to use it, and find porridge pretty filling anyway.

Maple Syrup from We Love Maple (I certainly do).

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Mmmmm, all the maple syrup! I was sent four grades of syrup. From their website:

Extra Light maple syrup

Primarily produced from the syrup collected at the very beginning of the season. Recognisable by its light colour and sweet, delicate flavour.

Light maple syrup

Harvested after the Extra Light syrup and relatively light in colour. It has a pure, delicate taste. Ideal in vinaigrettes or drizzled over sweet and savoury dishes.

Medium maple syrup

The most commonly used syrup, harvested after Light syrup. Its more pronounced maple flavour is perfect for cooking, desserts and sauces.

Amber maple syrup

Darker in colour. Rich, distinctive flavour that is more pronounced than that of Medium syrup. Recommended for sauces and glazes.

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I used the Amber syrup to roast some nuts with, which I gave away as Christmas presents- they were very well received and smelled amazing as they were baking.

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French toast made with panettone (so good, and such a good way to use it up) covered in Medium maple syrup. So delicious.

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Their website also has a lot of recipes on there, plus information about sports nutrition (maple syrup contains zinc, potassium and antioxidants- much better than sugar or sweeteners) so it makes me feel even better about including some in my post-long run brunches.  They also have a section on maple water (which I tried in the US in the summer and loved) so I shall be looking out for that in the shops.

4 SOME (seeds of mother earth) Vegan smoothie:

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I also loved the red shiny jiffy bag it was sent in!

I was sent one smoothie from a range of four vegan, dairy free, gluten free, wheat free smoothies that contain no added sugar. The four seeds (flax, poppy, hemp and pumpkin) are combined with superfoods, such as oats and quinoa, and fruit and vegetables, which are cold pressed to retain all of their goodness and nutrients.  The end result is a smoothie that is a great source of protein (20g per 500ml), iron, magnesium and potassium, while also being packed with vitamins.

The Berry Boom one contained pressed apple, water, blueberries, oats, beetroot, raspberries, pea protein, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds. It had a lovely berry flavour- I could not taste the beetroot (although I love beetroot in a salad, or cooked, I don’t like the idea of it in a smoothie particularly), and although the seeds and oats gave it a bit of texture, it wasn’t gritty like a protein powder drink can be. I was impressed with the amount of protein in one bottle (10g) and I can imagine that when the weather is hot it would be even more refreshing to drink after a long run.

4 S.O.M.E smoothies are available in 4 flavours – Strawberry Slam (4 super seeds, strawberries, quinoa and beets); Mango Passion (4 super seeds, quinoa, mango, carrot and pressed passion fruit); Power Greens (4 super seeds, crushed pineapple, spinach and oats) and Berry Boom (4 super seeds, blueberries, oats, beets and raspberries).

Have you tried any of these products? What is your favourite way to eat maple syrup?

*Products sent in exchange for a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own.

Some musing about pacing

So my fastest parkrun time on my local course in 2015 was 27.44

On Saturday (2nd January) I had volunteered to do token sorting, and after a day of rest (well, travelling home from Spain) I was itching to get out there. I had not been running fast, but I had kept my running up during the holidays. I put in 27.30 in a pace calculator as an optimal time (to make a course pb with a bit of leeway) and it said 8.52 per mile. Miles with an 8 at the start sound way too fast for me, but actually I know I am capable of it now (in fact, on Tuesday on the club run we did a 4 and a bit mile run, and the last 3 miles began with 8). I could not remember my exact Brighton 10K time, but I knew it was under 55 minutes, so I put in 55 for a 10K, and it came up with 8.52 per mile.

So this is interesting to me. Firstly, it reiterates that I am not a sprinter! I much prefer to get into a race. I can tolerate some discomfort because that speed over a 10K is way faster than my normal running, but I just can’t tolerate that feeling sick feeling for very long in a 5k. Jess mentioned something similar in one of her posts, about not being able to move her legs faster, but having some energy left at the end of a 5K.

Anyway, I was going to give it a shot (for a course pb and not an overall parkrun, as there are far flatter courses), but I had my sore hip thing in the night (I managed all of 2015 without it being an issue and it came back-grr) and it had been pouring with rain so it was going to be boggy. My new trail shoes had arrived! Love them! Although I got them from (normally good service) but I was sent an email that said “free delivery if you spend over £75”, so I added a few bits (another Light Spur and a headband) to push it over, but it wasn’t free. I have emailed them, and they claim that the offer ran out the day before I placed my order, but there was no date in the email, and I have even sent the entire email back to them for them to tell me where it says that, and they can’t. So I am a bit annoyed. (Today I finally received an email saying that the postage would be refunded because they could see there was no date in the email- I know it’s not much but it’s the principle of it that annoyed me so much).

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I had set my alarm a bit earlier as I thought I would try some food first, so I had a nakd bar (they worked for me in Spain), and I did some warm ups at home before my dad picked me up. One glance at the footpath and I knew it was silly to attempt a pb (I would need spikes and not trail shoes), but I have been aiming for under 30 minutes, and decided to try to be faster in the middle mile, as that is often my slowest (even though it has the most downhill).

The start ended up being really congested and I had to stop for a bit. Plus the big puddles meant that sometimes the person in front would stop to avoid a puddle, and then that would mean you would have to stop too, to avoid bumping into them. But once everyone thinned out a a bit I tried to push a bit harder. Then came the mud! Normally it is muddy, but not too bad, and mainly in the final mile. This time the middle mile (on a grassy field) was so slippery and slick- it was hard to grip the ground and at times my trainers were nearly sucked off my feet!

It had held 4 parkruns over 8 days, so no wonder it was bad- it needs a break now! The final mile was again very slippery and I ended up wading through a few huge puddles as I didn’t want to waste time stopping and inching around the edge- plus my feet were wet through by that time.

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My new shoes at the end! The laces aren’t too bad as they have a little pouch in the tongue to tuck the laces into.

Anyway, my final time was 29.05, so under the 30 minutes but not close to a pb! I think I need the mud to dry out a bit before I attempt it. The nakd bar was good though- I didn’t get hunger pangs and although I got a little stitch near the end that could have been from anything.

Strava says I got a pb for a section in the middle, plus my second mile was 8.45, so I am sure I can work towards that this year.

After we finished, we put on our coats and then started the token sorting (as I had volunteered, and my dad of course agreed to help). I have never done this job before, but luckily the team had a sort of tool box with sections for 20 tokens (1-20, 21-40 etc), so we sorted them into the sections before ordering each section. What was strange was that for ages we had a token missing from the first section- they must have been one of the last to be scanned (probably waiting for someone else running)- I thought they would be more in order than they ended up being. Even though I had my coat on (and a jumper) I got really cold, and I was glad it wasn’t raining. We were finished by just after 10am, so we were sorting for a good half an hour. It was quite a long job even with two of us, and really opened my eyes even more to how hard the core teams work each week to do all of these things.

After Dad dropped me home, I had a shower and then we headed around to my parents as my mum was cooking us pancakes! Parkrun + pancakes= an awesome Saturday, I think you will all agree!

So the aim for 2016 is to chip away at that parkrun time a bit. I don’t do resolutions, but I like things to aim for. I am trying to volunteer a bit more- around once a month, and in fact that would mean I would earn my volunteer t-shirt this year. There is a new one starting up near me, which will be much flatter, so potentially I could go quite a bit faster, but I would still like to bring my course pb down a bit this year too.

12 months of running

I love looking back over the past year, and so I thought I would choose a photo or two for each month to sum it all up.

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Not all of the races had medals- some had t-shirts, or a chocolate santa, but this is I think the 2015 collection!

Last year the big race for me was the Brighton marathon, but the “10 miles before Christmas” prep didn’t go well, as I had an awful cough and chest infection, and so hardly ran at all in December. But probably the rest did me good as the training went very well (with a little extra motivation from Jantastic).


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Marathon training kicked off after about a month of rest, with the freezing cold Fred Hughes 10 mile race.


Brighton half! Pb! I didn’t want to push myself as I needed fresh enough legs for my longer midweek runs, so I was amazed that I managed a pb and felt pretty strong throughout. If I had been training for just that race, I feel confident that I could have managed a sub 2 hour half. I will keep dreaming!


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My highest mileage of 132 miles in March as marathon training ramped up.


Brighton marathon!!!! I loved it! I was so nervous, but I kept an eye on my pacing, didn’t start off too quickly, enjoyed seeing Andy and my parents in the crowd, and was so proud to get that sub 5 hour goal.


(We can’t have a post without any cake)

Birthday course pb at panshanger parkrun!


Whipsnade 10K- hot!

St Albans half- fairly hilly!


This photo is from tail running at Panshanger parkrun. I marshalled, tail ran and did the new runner briefing that month, and won the Sweatshop monthly prize of new trainers too! Awesome!

These are identical to my current trainers, so are still in the box for when my old ones die.

Me very excited before the Ware 10 miles! There were other runners from the club doing the 10K, and it was so lovely to have some company pre and post race.


Many runs in Hawaii, including a 5K race.

parkrun tourism at the Crissy Fields parkrun in San Francisco! 4th women! 1st in my age category!!! Yes there were only 31 runners (all very friendly) but you have to be in it to win it! Or come 4th!


One early morning run, sunrise looking like a fire.


Bournemouth 10k. The afternoon time wasn’t the best but I managed a pretty speedy run, giving me confidence to aim for a pb in Brighton later in the autumn.

Brighton 10 mile- another pb in Brighton!


My 50th parkrun, and Panshanger’s first birthday!

10K in Sherwood Pines (I was drenched in those picture, before it even started!)

10K pb in Brighton! I love Brighton! My 4th Brighton pb of the year! Is that a pb full house?


Running club run to brunch (why don’t we do this every Sunday?)

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Christmas day parkrun with my brother (and jingly antlers- I found out that if I wedged them into my buff they stay put during running).

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December 5K series for Virtual Runner UK.

There have been more races this year (the full list I keep on my Race Calendar page), but that’s plenty to be getting on with.

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To sum up:

Brighton pb’s for 10K, 10 mile, half marathon and full marathon (full house?).

parkrun = awesome

Being in a running club= brilliant

I still love running.