Rain rain go away!

Not to sound totally British, but really, we have had quite enough rain.

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Hard to see, but it was a sheet of water coming down as our guttering was overflowing.

Last week I went to body pump for the first time in months. I stuck to very low weights as I was feeling very paranoid (plus my arms just have no strength) but I enjoyed it and was so glad to be back.

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After our weekend in Manchester I had a run on Monday after work- I did a 4 mile loop (didn’t have to stop and walk this time)- it was so muggy though, but the rain was saved for when I got home. I wore my new trainers – I keep meaning to get them out as I want to rotate my shoes a bit more. They were nice and springy. On Tuesday it was a club run, and I had such stiff calves- not sure why but on some of the hills I really struggled. A few of us were finding it hard so in the end a couple of people went on ahead and the rest of us went slightly slower. The route ended up being nearly 7 miles. Next week is speed training so shorter distances (but my muscles will ache!).

I had bought a new phone and needed to collect it so when I got home on Wednesday we risked walking into town, even though there were some huge clouds about. Again we were lucky I carried my rain coat over my arm the whole time but didn’t need it. (It has rained a lot at work- wet play is no fun!).

Anyway, on Thursday our luck ran out and it poured with rain. As we were eating dinner it got even heavier and we could not properly see out of our windows. I had booked onto pump and left with a bit of extra time. I drove down the road, only to come across cars turning around due to flooding. I went back up, chose another road, and in that road I had to turn around in a pub car park as abandoned cars blocked the road, and people were wading about in wellies. I looked at a third way but that had flooding too, and the rain had not stopped so I reasoned that if it carried on during the class I may well really struggle to get home after. So, I went home. So much for my return to body pump. I called up and they have transferred my booking over to next week so that’s something. We were lucky though as some houses close by were flooded, and a road out the back was closed.

On Friday I went to the waffle house after work- we sat inside but didn’t have any rain at that time. Once I got home I fancied a walk so we found a nice loop around our new neighbourhood (we even discovered a new library near by). It’s been great getting to know all the streets and parks nearby.

On Saturday I was down to marshal at Panshanger, and later was going into London for afternoon tea. But our booking was not until 4pm, so I decided to wear my running clothes and then go for a run after marshalling.

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I borrowed a tambourine from my classroom to take, so I could cheer all the runners as they went past.

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I had one of the best spots- on the corner of the lake- at this point the runners only have one mile to go, and a lot of that is flat.

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I had to stand and direct them on the curved path that follows the lake, not the track heading towards me.

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They then run alongside the lake before going alongside a field. It was great! I saw my dad and brother and gave them a big shake of the tambourine-  I alternated between shaking it and banging it against my leg, and had a bit of a sore patch on my thigh after! It seemed to make a lot of the runners smile, and a few of them had a bit of a joke- one person asked me to sing (I did a parkrun chant) and another asked me to dance, but that was a step too far so I just waved it about a bit more!

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It was very bright! All of the little thunder flies were being attracted to my orange top and high viz vest too!

After walking back with the tail runner and another marshal, I put in my headphones and headed off on a run- as I had already seen the second part of the course, I ran along from the start, up the hill, around the top, and then back to near the start (instead of carrying down towards the lake). I ran up the hill a second time and then ran along a new to me trail, before turning back and going back to the car park. I had put my Garmin on at the start of my marshalling as I wondered how far away the point was, so I walked 2 miles and ran just over 3 in the end.

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The hill that I ran up twice- it’s covered in large pebbles so it is hard to get traction on as you feel like your feet keep slipping back too.

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One of the “water features” was fairly full, although not as bad as Ellenbrook parkrun- that run finishes along an old air taxi-way and it was totally under water- people were splashing through it!

From their facebook page.

After heading home, having breakfast and a shower, plus some pottering (and helping Andy with the garden- he went to mow the lawn and it turns out the shed is not waterproof, so what was going to be a quick job ended up taking ages because he had to get everything out to dry on the lawn, and then of course it began to rain…) it was time to head to the station. I was going to walk but it was pouring with rain and Andy needed to buy a few bits so he drove in. I had a lovely catch up with my friends. We were near to Paddington station and wanted to look at the statue in the gardens nearby, but it was bucketing down so we just headed for the station after. Luckily by the time my train got back, it had stopped so I walked back home- it’s just over a mile so not too far at all- I just listened to some podcasts.

On Sunday morning I had to be up early as my parents were coming over, and I wanted to do a long run of around 10 miles. I have a 10 mile race in two weeks time, but a 10k next weekend so it was my last chance to get those miles up. It wasn’t raining when I left, but around 3 miles in it started. Thankfully it wasn’t too hard for most of it, but it was making the sweat run down my face more, and made my vest all soggy which was not so pleasant. I ran a similar route to a few weeks ago, but added a bit more on. Again, it’s nice to start to have a few more options and to get to know how smaller loops can be added together to make a larger route.

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And look what came in the post! It’s for my 10k next weekend, and it was redirected. I thought I had changed our address on most things, but now I realise I need to go through my emails and find out which races post out numbers and which you collect on the day, and make sure I change the address with the races as otherwise I shall be missing out.

Did you have much rain or flooding? 

South Africa part 2- safari time!

So ( basically a month ago now) after our few days in Cape Town (where I didn’t get to a parkun because our plane landed on Saturday morning after they all ended) we had a 2 hour flight to Jo’burg, and then a 4 hour transfer to our safari place. Yes, four hours. We had chosen the safari as it looked amazing and also was malaria free, which due to the last minute nature of our trip suited us. But mainly because it looked amazing. We could have flown to Botswana as it was close to the border, but changing between countries didn’t seem that easy. So it was either get in a tiny and very expensive plane, get drive, or drive ourselves (we are glad we didn’t choose the final option in the end as I think we would have been horrendously lost).

Anyway, the drive was interesting- the outskirts of Jo’burg seemed like a big US city, with huge motorways and service stations. But soon we were driving on little roads through small villages, past townships and farms, and the more “traditional” African landscape. I loved seeing the painted buildings- we saw a school with numbers and the alphabet painted brightly all over the building. The last hour of the journey was on a very bumpy unpaved road (this was warned about when we booked it)- the drive was not slowing down and I think my Garmin thought I was running as it was jiggling us about so much!

The reserve we were staying in had bookings only, and when we were waiting at the entrance hut for them to check our booking, a giraffe walked across the road in front of us! It was all so exciting! We were still nearly an hour from the lodge. We arrived there just before 4pm, and they told us we could make the safari if we wanted to. Of course we wanted to!

Rhinos on our first day. I loved seeing them- they were so gentle and peaceful. Our guide told us that all other animals were reported over the radio, but because of poachers they never disclosed the rhinos. It was heartbreaking. They also told the guests how many of the other animals that were there, but even the guides would not be allowed to know how many rhinos were in the park. 

We were to have the same driver and tracker for our stay, so they asked us about what we would like to see. Around sunset they found somewhere to stop (which felt a bit weird at first- getting out of the vehicle after seeing all of these animals) and we had drinks and nibbles, and then continued in the dark, with our tracker shining a torch back and forth (very hypnotic). It was then back for dinner at the lodge, which that night was a sort of BBQ around a fire pit (loads of salads and veggie options).

Our lodge- the balcony did have a small fence around it but it looked right out into the bush and we saw so many animals from here.

We were there from Tuesday evening to Saturday morning, and each day went like this:

6am wake up call. Head up to the main lodge (in the dark you had to be accompanied by security guards as they were cautious about the wild animals)- there was tea, coffee and  rusks (looked like biscotti) if you wanted. Then we got into the open sided jeep things.

It was so cold, so for the morning ones they provided hot water bottles, blankets, and these huge ponchos with fleecy linings- I had it all!

6.30am – Head off and look for animals. The guide was amazing (she was a zoologist) and had so many facts about the animals. It was mainly us and a family of four, so we had a lot of space in there, and no-one crowding to see the animals. She was so respectful of the animals too- she would stay a long way back and would turn off the engine if we were close. Sometimes with the elephants she would show us certain behaviours that meant they didn’t want to be disturbed, so she would back away or leave them.

Sometime after sunrise the safari would stop (the park had special designated drinks areas- nice and wide and open so we would not be surprised by a leopard)- in the morning I went for hot chocolate, but there was coffee and tea too. Plus freshly made muffins (a different one each day- banana, lemon poppyseed, apple cinnamon, chocolate chip..).

One of our morning stops- there were some caves nearby so we walked there (with our guide)- she found that hyenas had been sleeping in the caves overnight!

Then we would climb back on and see more animals before getting back to the lodge.

The landscape was not what I expected- it was far more tree-covered- I was expecting vast plains, but it was much more varied. We saw baboons here- this was an old waterfall and what looks like rock was actually solidified algae.

9.30am approx- Arrive back (welcomed with hot towels)- we could either shower first, or go straight to breakfast. There was a buffet with all the cold breakfast items imaginable (cereal, pastries, toast, fresh fruit platters, yoghurts, even cheese and meats), plus a menu, although they would also cook anything- I had French toast one day which was lovely. On a couple of days I stuck to the cold things, and then on another day had French toast again, even though it wasn’t on the menu, they offered it all.

You had a view of the watering hole from the veranda where breakfast was served and so every day we saw different animals there- zebra, kudu with their amazing twisty horns, warthog, wildebeest…. pretty special indeed. They have artificial watering holes as the reserve is on old farmland and so they needed to create places, although there were some natural ones on the reserve, as well as a river.

10.30-3.00 ish- This was time to chill in our room. On a couple of days I went for a short run on the treadmill, as there was an open air gym (no running in the bush was allowed).

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5K was enough for me as it was so hot. I wore my parkrun 50 t-shirt so I felt like I was sort of running one in SA! On another day I went for a neck, back and shoulder massage in the spa (the exchange rate is very good so it was very reasonable indeed)- this was amazing but I put “medium” pressure, and goodness knows what firm would have been like!

There was lunch from 12-2pm, but we didn’t bother as we were always full from breakfast. We spent time reading on the veranda, or listening to podcasts. It was brilliant because you would look up and see animals wandering past. One day a huge herd of elephants went by, including a baby so tiny it was almost hidden under the stomach of another one.

One day we saw loads of giraffes and I ended up watching them for an hour. They were so funny- they would walk, then freeze, then very slowly much on the leaves, and then a few minutes later take a few more steps.

I loved seeing the warthogs too- they put up their tail as they go to leave, and that indicates “follow me”- they trot along in a very comical way. I could have just sat there and watched the animals go by for the whole time, even without the drives.

3.00pm- Afternoon tea was served on the veranda- this was basically iced tea, some savoury canapes and then some sort of freshly baked cake- again often we were not that hungry but most days I had something small.

3.30pm – The afternoon safari set off. This started off nice and warm, but you needed to bring jumpers and coats because it soon got very cold with the air rushing past, especially once the sun went down.

We saw lots of lions on these drives! Here are some lions eating a buffalo- the bone crunching sounds were graphic! They had special “locks” so that only a limited number of cars could be at each sighting- so they would not disturb the animals. Our driver would move the car to a few different positions so we could get different views. She told us that if a lion came up to the car, they would see the vehicle as one item so as long as we sat still we would be OK.

One evening was my absolute favourite- we saw two female lions, two older cubs, and three tiny cubs. The male lion was also there but hard to see as he was behind a termite mound. Honestly it was amazing how well camouflaged they were- they are huge but once they like down even if you know they are there they can be hard to spot. The cubs were so playful with each other, it was just amazing.

The tracking was amazing to watch- the driver and tracker would be peering at the floor for prints- on one of our stops they pointed out various ones to us- we could identify the big cat prints because of the dents in the bottom. We also saw rhino ones- bigger than dinner plates! Our guide knew so much about the birds too- we saw a lot of hornbills (so I constantly had that line from Lion King; “Kings don’t need advice from little hornbills for a start” going around my head), plenty of very pretty birds (I did write them all down) and an eagle.

Sometime around sunset we would find a place to stop, and here we would have sundown drinks. They asked before they left if we wanted anything, so they had freshly made iced tea for me, beer for Andy- some people had cocktails. They also got a little camping stove and cooked kebabs- veggie ones for me, and then they would cook meat ones. There were also snacks like pretzels, raisins and that jerky thing.

We saw many beautiful sunsets. Then we would climb back up and the tracker, sat on the front, would hook up a huge spotlight and gently sweep it left to right, right to left as we drove, looking for eyes reflecting. They had a policy that they would not shine it on animals that should not be out at night as it could confuse them, so if they saw animals like that they would switch off the beam and drive past.

Our first lion sighting was our second evening- this male lion was known to be very calm around vehicles and had been seen near to our camp. At first we found him walking along the road (they prefer to as it’s easier than going through the thorny bushes) but later we saw him again as we were heading back to the lodge.

7.30pm (approx)- We would arrive back (again welcomed with hot towels) and then shown to dinner- sometimes it was around the fire pit, others up on the balcony. One night we were the only guests there, so they set it up for us in our room which was amazing.

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They even lit us a fire as it was a bit chilly. The chef would always come and speak to us, and the food was just fantastic. There was always a starter, soup, main and dessert- nothing too large, and so full of fresh vegetables and fruits. Plus the vegetarian option was not a different version of the meat course, it was something totally different. On the day we had dinner in our room we had aubergine carpacio to begin (three slices of seasoned crispy aubergine with some lovely vegetables), then carrot and potato soup, a traditional African dish of baked spiced lentils with some fresh salsa on the side, and then sticky toffee pudding.

When we sat in the main part of the lodge you could see the watering hole as it was lit with a sort of faint orange light- a couple of evenings we saw a rhino there, and one night a hyena!

Then we would have to try and stay awake for a bit and let dinner go down before going to sleep as it would be starting all again in the morning.

We didn’t manage to see a leopard, so we have been told we need to go back as that is the last of the big five (we managed to see lions, elephants, rhinos and buffalo all in one evening once!).  It was totally amazing, and I am so glad that we managed to get there and juggle it around our house move. We managed a safari drive on the morning before leaving for our (four hour….) transfer, and I don’t think I could ever get bored of them. There were some guys who left a day early because in their words, “once you’ve seen one elephant, you’ve seen them all”- what??? We saw so many- we saw some younger ones play fighting- they pushed over small trees as a show of their strength- it was fascinating. Also those guys wanted to see lions but didn’t manage it- I am not sure why they didn’t stay to try and see a lion.

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When our guide found out I was a teacher, she offered to make a cast of a lion footprint using plaster of Paris, so on one of our drink stops we walked along a bit until we found one, and then went back later to collect it. They packaged it up and I am glad to say it survived the flight home.

Andy got some amazing photos with his zoom lens, so now we have the tricky decisions of which pictures to print!

Would you ever consider a safari? 

Heading up to Manchester

Last weekend we were off to Manchester. We had originally looked at driving up most of the way on Friday, and then doing some parkrun tourism before driving the rest of the way, but we could not find anywhere suitable (eg a parkrun close by to a hotel) on the way, and didn’t really fancy that drive, so we booked train tickets instead.

It meant I headed to Panshanger parkrun- now it’s very local to me and took me 6 minutes to drive there! I think it’s about 5 miles away so potentially I could run one way (and get a lift back if my dad is going) but the only way I know is on dual carriageways with no pavements, so I need to look into that. Anyway, I was still aching after body pump, so I started at the back, although this ended up being very stop-start as it’s very narrow. I enjoyed it though. 31.20 (my 72nd one).

Then it was a bit of a rush to get showered, finish packing and drive to the train station (Milton Keynes)- we stopped on the way to get some lunch for the train. We had a bit of a panic in the car park, as it was pay and display (honestly, what a stupid idea for a train car park- what if the train is delayed…), and the machine would only do one day tickets, not the weekend rates as advertised. I tried to call them but got no answer, and I didn’t want to miss our train so I took photos of the signs and then rushed to the platform. (I called them later and they were not worried and said we could buy a new ticket online after midnight).

Anyway, the train journey was lovely- we had seats in the quiet carriage so we listened to the film podcast and looked out of the window.

After checking in to our hotel (this took about 30 minutes- Disney has shorter queues!) we headed out for a little wander and to find some dinner- in the end we went to Northern Soul for an epic grilled cheese sandwich- they are so massive we easily could have shared.

Then we walked out to the city stadium to see The Stone Roses.

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First up were Public Enemy, which was just very confusing- a lot of shouting the names of people in the group- I don’t think Flava Flave even knew what day let alone what time it was (and yes, he still had his massive clock on).

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It was lovely as the sun was going down – a bit like a festival.

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Then the main event- they were awesome although there were lots of idiots in the crowd letting off flares the whole time. Ian Brown even had a go at some of them- they are really dangerous, but people still kept doing it. It was so weird though as so many people were getting up and going to get more drinks the whole time- seeing drunk people try to negotiate steps carrying four pints was amusing at first, and then got annoying as I was right by the steps so kept having to move so I would not get soaked. Plus even though they claimed it was a non-smoking venue (even electronic ones) but so many people were blatantly ignoring it. We saw one person told to stop, even though the same marshal was watching the whole time. Anyway, the band were great- my ears were ringing after.

We walked back to the centre as the trams were totally rammed.

The next morning we went to Bill’s for breakfast- I was very sad to see they don’t do the peanut butter French toast any more, but they still did the pancakes and they were super.

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We then checked out of our hotel and had a few hours wandering around the shops before getting the train home- another good journey with podcast listening.

Do you like train journeys? It is so much easier than driving, plus you get right to the city centre.

3 Things All New Bike Riders Should Do*

Hello, I have a collaborative post for you today from Ellie Jo. There have been a few posts on my running club website all about a new local cycling group. Now, it’s not for me, but it does seem to be having a bit of a boom at the moment, so read on if you are interested:

There is no better way to travel during the summer than on a bike. Not only is it fun, but it’s also a fantastic way of boosting your fitness levels and burning calories. It’s also considered one of the most environmentally friendly forms of transportation. So you can exercise and travel, while still being kind to the environment. With benefits such as these, it’s not hard to see why so many people are getting back on their bikes. If you haven’t ridden a bike since you were a child, you’ll naturally be excited to start pedalling. But you need to do these three things before taking your new bike for a test run.

Get your bike insured

Whether you want to use it for leisurely rides or competitions, you need to get your bike insured. It’s no secret that new bikes can often be expensive. This makes them an appealing targets for thieves. So if you’re uninsured, and your bike is stolen, you can’t get a replacement or money back. This also applies if your bike is damaged accidentally during a fall or crash. These are more likely to occur when you’re just starting out. So it’s crucial that you have insurance cover before taking your bike out for the first time. Look at bike insurance comparison sites online to see which package offers the best protection at an affordable price.

Buy two locks

Buying two bike locks may seem excessive. But the protection and peace of mind they provide makes them a worthwhile purchase. If thieves see that your bike has multiple locks, they will be deterred from attempting to steal it. Many bike insurance companies will require that you have a secure locking system too. There are many different styles of bike lock to choose from, many of which claim to be the best. Narrow down your options by reading reviews online and by asking other cyclists for their recommendations. Choose two bike locks and learn how to attach them before setting off. Ideally, they should wrap around the wheels, frame and the object you are attaching it to. Never lock your bike onto old posts and fences which could be easily dismantled. While it might seem time consuming, a bike theft only takes seconds to occur. So always take the time to do it.

Be prepared

If you’re planning on cycling through towns and cities, you need to prepare yourself for these busy surroundings. Cars and lorries will overtake you and pedestrians will step out in front of you. You might also come across other more experienced cyclists who disregard the rules of the road. This can make cycling stressful and less enjoyable if you aren’t fully prepared. If you’re feeling anxious about cycling on the roads for the first time, you might benefit from taking a cycling course. This will give you the skills and confidence you need to be a safe and competent cyclist. Look for courses in your local area and join up as soon as possible.

Once you’ve completed these important things, you can head out on your first biking adventure.


What tips do you have to add about cycling? I used to cycle to and from the bus stop when I went to uni, and always used to make sure the lock went through the frame and the wheel, but I saw lots of bikes get stolen (wheels left behind), and Andy had his saddle stolen once. If I were to get my bike out I would take it to a shop and have the brakes checked out, as I don’t think they would be safe at the moment. I also would add a helmet is a must.

Muggy runs

So, suddenly after getting back from holiday, it seemed like summer had arrived. Well, the warmth anyway. We arrived home on Sunday morning (I will get around to a recap of the safari because it was pretty special, but that may take a while)- our flight got in around 5am so we were home by 6.30. Because there is only one hour of time difference, there isn’t any jet lag, which after a 12 hour flight was new to me. We had a very efficient day doing lots of unpacking, but I didn’t really fancy a run that day.

My running since then has picked up:

Monday- A loop that turned out to be 4 miles- it was so hot I had to keep on stopping to cool down, as a lot of it wasn’t in shade.

Tuesday- Club run- we had the most awful violent thunderstorm at work, so I thought that our planned 8 mile route would be changed to something shorter, but over this way there was no thunder so we did a hilly 8.3 mile route (normally reserved for a Sunday morning longer run)- it was so sticky and sweaty, and we all had flies stuck to us by the end. Good, but super tough.

Wednesday- Walk after work.

Thursday- Attempted a different route which I thought would be shorter than my Monday route- turned out to be 4.3 miles so a bit longer! Again, very hot.

Friday- After work I did a lot of unpacking, collected post from our old place, popped to town to spend my birthday vouchers (got a Sonos for my office), caught up on work, and all before Gogglebox!

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Saturday- A mile run from town, a mainly walk with sprinting thrown in tail run at parkrun, and a walk into town later on.

Sunday- 9 miles in the rain. I tried to use mapometer to sort out a route, but as I went off road around the lakes for a bit, it got confused, so in the end I had to loop around a bit more to get the miles in. I have a 10 mile race in a few weeks time so wanted to make sure I was OK doing that distance still. The rain was refreshing and luckily didn’t get too heavy. We did a bit more unpacking and were pretty much done! Not too bad at all.

Monday- Little walk to the shops after work, avoiding the showers.

Tuesday- Shorter club run. This was fantastic- we were allowed to run in the grounds of Hatfield House as most of the people had passes, and it was lovely to be off road and away from the traffic. The scenery was stunning too- the sun came out and at some points you are running through woodland, but other times it is huge fields of wheat, almost shimmering in the sunlight.

Wednesday- I finally found a loop that is just over 3 miles long! That is the minimum distance that I think is worth a hair wash, and I am not really keen on out and back routes (plus they look so boring on Strava) so I was keen to find a loop. Although I do enjoy running, sometimes if I am tired after work or have lots to do, the temptation is to cut it short, whereas on a loop, once I am on it I keep going (even though I know I could turn around). It doesn’t quite make sense, but I prefer it. Anyway, it was sunny and hot when I left, and as I turned one corner I could see the most enormous black cloud- luckily I was home before it emptied!

Today I have booked onto body pump- this is the first time since I fell over in the half marathon and hurt my back. It has seemed fine, so I am hoping it will be alright although I am going to use very light weights. Fingers crossed!

How have you been coping in this muggy weather? Are you good at finding new walking, cycling or running routes or do you stick to the same ones?