Round one: Canadian Rockies

So I am back from a wonderful holiday. Of course I took rather a lot of photos, and as we did a lot of moving about (I think the most we had was 3 nights in the same place) there is a lot of recapping, so I will do a few posts on it.

Because our flight was from Gatwick, which is basically in Brighton, and we didn’t fancy the two hour drive in rush hour, we got the train the night before and stayed in the Premier Inn, which meant we had a nice relaxing start the next day. The flight was long, (10 hours I think) – we flew with West Jet who are a sort of low (lower) cost airline- no food on board, no entertainment (although you could get an app and then watch things that way)- but that suited us- we bought some snacks with us and a nice sandwich in Pret, and I had downloaded a few things from i-player to my tablet which helped pass the time.

We landed in Calgary just after lunch time there, and headed to an outlet mall for a bit of shopping (and a London fog latte for me, oh how I love them) before driving to Drumheller. We had seen this place on The Amazing Race Canada (I love this show- a bit like a travel show crossed with the Crystal Maze)- it’s a canyon where loads and loads of dinosaur fossils were discovered, and there is a museum as well as trails through the badlands. Due to jet lag, we were at the museum before it even opened!

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The scenery was very interesting, and we took part in a guided hike around the badlands as well as visiting the museum.

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T-Rex called “Black Beauty”- the real skull was too heavy to be held in place.

It was set up really well, with a pathway to follow, lots of information about the fossils, and you could even look through a glass partition and see people working on the fossils.

We had a fairly long drive to Banff so after stopping to look at some hoodoos (rock formations) we headed off. We saw plenty of wildlife on this drive including deer and elk, and early evening arrived in Banff.

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Our room had lovely views of the mountains, and after relaxing for a bit we headed into the town, which I think is the most scenic high street in the world.

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The road lines up perfectly with the mountain. It is such a good town to stay in- it has that sort of apres ski vibe with shops, cafes and restaurants open in the evening.

During our days in Banff we walked around a nearby lake, hiked up to some waterfalls and took the gondola up the mountain for panoramic views.

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We saw a beaver in the water at this lake- we were not quick enough to take a photo though.

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From the top of the mountain

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Driving back after visiting one of the waterfalls, we noticed a lot of cars pulled over (wildlife jam) and were very excited to see a bear! A little later it wandered across the road. Some people were getting very close and it did a bit of a charge to scare them off- I think people forget that they are wild animals. We had seen bears in Glacier park in the US, but never in Canada (and 7 years ago we visited Banff and Jasper and spent all of our journeys peering out of the car in hope of spotting one).


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Mmmm London fog.

We had some lovely food too- we found a nice veggie place called Nourish which made very tasty nachos (covered in everything from cheese to blueberries), and a burger bar (Eddie’s) which had a menu, but also a create your own, where I had a veggie burger with peanut butter, pickles and blueberry chutney. Sounds weird but it was delicious.


Of course we found a bakery too (Wild Flour bakery)- we had been hiking all morning and did’t get into town until around 3pm- we shared carrot cake and it was so tempting to eat it while we were waiting for our sandwiches to be made! We planned to go back for breakfast as the almond croissants and cinnamon rolls looked so good, but when we got there they had none- how disappointing!

After a few days in Banff, we headed a hour or so north to Lake Louise. Again, we had visited here before, and last time tried to make the hike to the Lake Agnes tea house. The hotel were very helpful in providing a map, and we realised that last time we had headed off in the wrong direction completely.


This time the hike was a success! It’s just under 3k from the hotel to the tea house, but at times it is fairly steep, lots of switchbacks, and of course at a high elevation too, so it was hard work. We had been warned that the tea house was cash only (no electricity, they boil the water over a fire, although someone did ask if they had wi-fi…)- the people who work there stay for about 4 nights before hiking back down.


Anywhere with this long a tea list is good for me!  We then walked around the lake, and then attempted to climb up to another look out, but the switchbacks were very steep, the ground was covered in loose stones, and I could see the lake below me (I am not keen on being on a steep slope like that) so we gave up after getting most of the way there. I had to clamber down some of it sitting down as it was just so steep.


From the far side of the lake looking across to the tea house.

After hiking back down we were pretty shattered, in a good way (we had walked about 6 or 7 miles and pretty much none of it was flat), and so enjoyed dinner with views of Lake Louise.


The next morning Andy had booked a surprise for us- a sunrise canoe on Lake Louise. We had to be ready at the boat house for 6am- early indeed! They gave us a hot drink and a bag with some breakfast food, but I have no idea how people either drink or eat whilst paddling and not dropping the oar into the water.


I was very nervous about falling in (the water is so very cold) but after a bit I got used to it. The scenery was amazing, and it was so peaceful to be there in the middle of the water. I even braved a few photos, carefully balancing the oar on my lap. The reflections of the sun coming up were just amazing to see.

We were only there for one night, so after that we drove up the Icefields Parkway, stopping at Peyto lake (amazing, shaped like a wolf) and the Athabasca glacier, before getting to Jasper in the afternoon.


Peyto Lake

IMG_20160816_142220383_HDR-PANO The glacier

Our first stop in Jasper was the Bear’s Paw bakery, which we loved last time we went. It did not disappoint!

Driving up to our lodge we saw an elk, and two bears! Andy joked that I should run down to the village in the morning to get our breakfast, but with all that wildlife close by I declined! Lucky I didn’t because the next morning we saw a bear by the side of the road, happily eating berries and seemingly oblivious to our car.


An elk

Around Jasper there were more amazing lakes and views to be seen. Some of the hikes only allowed groups of four or more, due to bear activities, so we had to stick to the more populated paths.


Lake Annette- a lovely path (5k I think?) lead around the entire lake with beautiful views at every turn.


Medicine Lake (it looked very different from last time as there had been a forest fire so a lot of the trees were gone, or black).


Maligne Lake- you can do a cruise here for one of the most famous photos of the Rockies (Spirit Island) but as we did that last time we stayed on the shore this time.

On the way to Maligne lake we saw two moose by the side of the road!


We hiked along the trail at Mount Edith Cavell to see a lake filled with icebergs.


On our way back from seeing the Athabasca falls, there was another wildlife jam. At first we could not work out what it was, but then we saw it was a bear up a tree!


One afternoon we had a walk around trails close to Jasper town- this totem pole is in the town centre.


On our last day we shared one of the Bear’s Paw’s legendary sticky buns- so good, and bought a pb&j to have as lunch on our journey. We then drove back down the Icefields Parkway, stopping by another stunning lake for lunch.


We were staying at Moraine Lake, which is very close by to Lake Louise. Our hotel stay included a canoe hire, but it was a bit windy in the evening and they weren’t letting people go out, so we walked around the lake instead.


The next morning the weather was perfect so we spent about 45 minutes on the lake, before checking out.


After those 10 days we were leaving the Rockies behind us, but as we bought a National Parks pass that is valid until August 2018, I have a feeling we may well be going back…

Have you ever been to Canada? Would you be tempted? What sort of activities do you like to do on holiday?

Multi-tasking the decorating

So we have been in our new house for a couple of months now, but this is the first time I feel like I have actually had any length of time at home, as we had a holiday to South Africa, and then a lot of busy weekends.

A few weeks ago we began the horrible job of wallpaper stripping. Originally we were going to do our bedroom and both offices, but after doing two rooms we decided that was quite enough. We had purposely left books packed in boxes, as we didn’t want to be moving full bookshelves while decorating, and after two rooms-worth of things were stored in Andy’s office, it made it clear to us that we needed to sort the first two rooms before we could realistically do anything with the third.

Luckily my dad has had some free time, so he’s been helping me. My parents both came over last Thursday armed with rollers, poles, sponges, sugar soap, filler, blue tape (my favourite) and all sorts of other things I didn’t know we would need, or things that are somewhere in the shed…

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I had mentioned that I thought we would need to put up lining paper before painting, as the walls seemed quite bad, so once the ceilings were done, we used some left over paint to give my office a coat of white paint. We were pretty pleased with the results, and so decided to paint them straight away.

On Friday we spent the morning (and a lot of the afternoon) sanding down the walls, skirting boards, doors and radiators, and then cleaned the walls. The preparation took a while, but I am sure it will be worth it. (We were lucky with our last house as it was a fairly new build, so the walls were smooth and the woodwork was pretty good, so we didn’t even clean the walls, we just painted them).

On Monday morning Dad came over again, and we painted my office, painted the woodwork in there, and then painted white on the walls of our bedroom to give it a base coat. We thought we would need to give my office a second coat, so on Monday evening I bought more paint, but by the next morning it had dried properly and seemed fine. I had not bought the paint for our bedroom at this point as I thought it was all going to take longer, so on Monday evening I tried to buy it, but we went to two shops and it was not in stock. We checked online and a Homebase about half an hour away had 3 tins in stock, so at 7.55am on Tuesday I was sat in my car waiting for it to open! We spent Tuesday morning painting the bedroom with the first coat- we had chosen a darker colour so it was a bit more fiddly, and dried in a more patchy way- we knew we would need a second coat here. We had a bit of a time cut off as I had friends visiting after lunch, but I think we both appreciated have a shorter decorating slot as it is hard work!

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The bedroom after painting the ceiling and stripping the wallpaper.

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You can see how patchy the paint appeared at first.

On Thursday we did the final coat to the bedroom, and all of the woodwork, doors, and radiator. As the colour was darker, I decided to do another coat on the skirting boards, so I did that on my own on Friday morning. We are going to have new flooring but that will wait until the autumn so all I need to do now is put the furniture back and unpack a few boxes of books. It feels great to have a couple of rooms looking a bit more how we would like them.

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I am so pleased with the final results, and we are so much further through than I thought we would be at this time. We are going to replace the carpet with some other flooring, and need to get some curtains as at the moment the windows have these weird office blinds, and at some point we will get some new furniture.

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We will also put up some pictures but at the moment we are enjoying how smooth and clean the walls appear!

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My office part way through- the wallpaper was rather interesting! The walls were also terrible with all different colours all over them.

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Nice dark green paint where the radiator used to be.

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So this is my office now! The back wall has a large and small bookcase- lots of space for my cookery books, folders, work bits and speaker. I also found my foam roller, and my idea is to actually use it a bit more! Again, we are going to replace the carpet, probably with laminate or something similar as my chair wheels get very stuck on the carpet which is really annoying.

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My desk is now behind the door, and my plan is to have a corner desk that goes around and under the window, so I can work at my laptop, but also have space for other things.

As well as the flooring, we need to put up the blind (I bought a cool one with foxes all over it, but Andy needs to find his drill and that is probably buried deep in the shed), and then put up some pictures. For Christmas Andy gave me a world map that is magnetic, so you can use it as a notice board, but also has pins so you can put up where you have been or where you want to go.

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We have also made some progress in our garden. The previous owners had a dog, and next to the shed (the non-waterproof one…) was a dog cage and shed (kennel? It was the height of the shed, with a door). The cage was taller than the shed too. Anyway, we put it for sale on ebay (1p, buyer collects) and last week two people came along and took it carefully apart. Annoyingly once it was gone we realised that the concrete base, which we thought went under the dog cage and the shed, only went under the cage. As we no longer have a garage, we wanted to get a big shed to store things like the lawnmower in. But the space is still fairly big, so last week we went to a shed showroom at a local garden centre, and have ordered one, to be delivered after our holiday.

Although it has been really satisfying, as soon as we do one thing we find several other things to add to our list!

London hokey-cokey

(In, out, in, out).

Last weekend we had a very packed schedule- so packed in fact that I could not even go to parkrun!

We were off on Saturday morning to get the tube, as first up we had tickets for a little Star Wars exhibition inside Harrods (no prizes for guessing who booked that).

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Harrods was a total nightmare- so busy, no signs (could not even find the stairs at first) but the exhibition was pretty cool (although very tiny)- it had all sorts of props from the latest films, and items for sale if you had many thousands of pounds.

We then got some lunch and went to eat it in the park- all lovely until a man sat on the bench next to me, took off his shoes (yes… no idea why he thought this was acceptable behaviour) and then started smoking. At least we had finished eating so we had a bit more of a walk.

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Then we went to pick up our tickets for Book Of Mormon- I had got these for Andy for his birthday as he wanted to see it again. It was very funny, although the people next to us did not seem to enjoy it- not sure what they were expecting.

We had planned to go to Mildred’s for dinner (a veggie restaurant) but they don’t take bookings, and even though we got there fairly early, the wait was huge, so we walked for a bit before finding a Bill’s for a nice dinner before getting the train home. The underground was so hot, and it did make me very glad that I don’t have to get the train for commuting.

On Sunday we had a more leisurely start, so I went to our track session, and my auntie popped by before we headed out to the train station again. We had tickets to see Modern Life is Goodish (by Dave Gorman)- last year we had them but didn’t get in (they give out free tickets, so they always give our more than they have, and you just hope you are far up enough in the queue to get in). We left a lot of time as we didn’t know how long it would take- in the end it took about 90 minutes and we got there at around 3pm, even though doors didn’t open until 5, and at first we thought we were very early, but after a few minutes a queue started to form- we ended up being numbers 79 and 80. We were let in, given tickets for some free drinks, and then had to hang around for about an hour before they led us into the studio.

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We ended up seeing two shows being recorded- we watched one, had a short break and then had to sit somewhere else. The shows were very funny, but we didn’t leave until 9pm! We found a Sainsbury’s still open and bought a sandwich each to eat on the tube. It was a good weekend, but busy, and we were both glad that we didn’t have to get any trains or tubes on Monday!

Do you like going in to London? Do you like seeing shows, and if so, which one is your favourite?

Parkrun pb ponderings

But first up, my last week of running:

Last Tuesday (after decorating all morning and having friends over in the afternoon) I headed off for our club run. We were due to do the 8 mile hilly loop- it’s a really pretty loop after the first couple of miles, but it’s hilly. There were only 5 of us on the run, and two of them wanted to run with us for the first two miles, and the run back, so for the most part it was three of us. It was very enjoyable, but it was so muggy, and drizzling, which just made it feel more sticky instead of being refreshing.

On Wednesday I was seeing friends in the morning for brunch- I walked into town to meet them, we had brunch (good old pancakes at Bill’s).

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Then we walked back home, and then when they left I walked back into town with them before they caught the train. I did consider a run, but we went shed shopping instead and after walking close to 5 miles I decided that it was a good idea to have a rest day.

On Thursday I had been decorating all morning, until around 1.30. Some friends were due to pop by, but could not make it in the end, so I had some cereal, pottered about for a bit while it went down, and then headed out on a run. I got into a good routine a while back of having some hill repeats in my training each week, but since moving I need to find a good hill.


I did around a mile of warm up, then found a small-ish hill, and went up and down it about 12 times I think. I like the Strava screenshot as it looks like someone just scribbled on the road! After that I had a gentle run home, to total 3.1 miles.

On Friday I ran to the lakes, around the lakes and back home. It was lovely.

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6.6 miles covered before breakfast- perfect.

Then on Saturday it was time for parkrun! For the last month I have either been a tail runner or a marshal, but as this was my last one before going on holiday I fancied running all out. I looked at my pb for that particular course, which was on the inaugural event- I ran 27.52, and when I used a pace calculator to see what a 27.40 time would be (for a bit of breathing room) it was 8-something per mile, so I thought I would just see how close I could get to it.

My dad and brother were both running, and my dad didn’t want to go too fast (his pb is around 22 minutes I think) so he ran with me. We started off more cautiously, and were enjoying saying thanks to all of the marshals- I knew nearly all of them! The Ellenbrook Fields course has a small loop of around a mile, and then a large loop, all around fields and through woods,  and we were really enjoying the scenery.  Dad does not run with a watch, but he guessed after 2 miles that we were running around 26 minute pace- I was not sure but I knew I was close to the pace I had looked at. As you get closer to the finish you run along a flat, straight concrete path (and old taxi-way from when it was an airfield) and we saw my brother up ahead. Dad suggested that we try to catch him up, and finish in a row, as we have not managed a 1,2,3 before. We gained on him for a bit, but then he started speeding up and overtook a couple of runners. Dad mentioned that we could still go for it, so I told him to overtake and that I would try to keep up with him.  At this time all I could really do was gasp an answer to Dad, but we managed to pick up and overtake the two runners, and then got closer to my brother. Dad ended up running behind me and cheering me along, which was lovely. As I went through the finish funnel, I did actually gag- I was very close to actually being sick and have never felt quite like that before- I have felt nauseous before, but never actually felt my throat go. It was not nice and I felt very sorry for the person handing out the tokens! I got my breath back quickly though, and we were very pleased to finish as numbers 51, 52 and 53! My watch said 27.17, so I was pretty sure that I had achieved a pb!

We had a few stretches in the shade, before walking back to the car and taking a photo to commemorate- we tried to do podium order (my brother in the centre as he finished first out of all of us) but could not remember which was bronze and silver are meant to be.

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When the results came through I was really pleased to have achieved an official course pb of 27.16! My brother was 5 seconds ahead, and my dad one second behind. I was chatting to Dad on the way back and he mentioned he thought I was using my arms more, which I was really pleased with, as we practised this at the track session last week, and as we were coming down the runway I tried to really think about my movements.

As the result came in, I was looking on the Did You Run Today facebook group (a really welcoming and supportive running group) and someone had posted about being really disappointed because they did their first parkrun last week, and this week were a minute slower- not the right time to jump on there and post my pb! I think if you follow other runners, and read blogs, then there will always be someone getting a pb, but if you look at individuals they aren’t all getting them all of the time.

I looked at my full parkrun results to see how that time compared. It is faster than my tourism to flatter courses (including Hove Prom and Crissy Field), but I have beaten that time at the very flat St Albans back in 2013 five times, and matched it once.  Since mainly running Panshanger (off road and not at all flat) I have only run 27 minutes a handful of times. Anyway, I wondered how many pb’s I had achieved. That was my 75th parkrun, and I have a total of 8 pb’s- this does not include the first event at new courses, as that is always an automatic personal best. I didn’t think that was too bad a ratio, and I think it shows that you can’t be getting faster times every single week. My dad has run 66, and achieved 13 pb’s, so he is a bit ahead there. My brother has run 53 and achieved seven pb’s, again a bit ahead of me. Hopefully when the cooler weather comes around I can do a few more flat out parkruns and maybe chip a few seconds off- it would be good to get another one beginning with a 26, but we shall see! Of course the beauty of parkrun is that you can run it for any reason you want, and now I am half way to the next milestone (as my dad pointed out to me) I shall be working steadily towards 100.

How often do you think you achieve a pb? If you do run parkruns, how many in total have you run, and how many of those have been pb’s? 

A mini Garmin disaster!

Last week I got home from a run, went to plug in my Garmin and realised that the clip had been knocked onto the floor and was broken!

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It’s hard to see in the photo but the clip no longer meets as the spring is gone. I managed to hold it together over my watch so my run was uploaded, and then had a look on the internet for a replacement.

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Luckily amazon had a replacement, and although it wasn’t an official Garmin one, it had good reviews, so I gave it a go. It seems to clip on better, but sometimes I have trouble downloading the runs- it will begin to charge so I know it is attached properly, but Garmin express will say there is nothing connected. But after a bit of fiddling it downloads the runs so that was a relief!

After my parkrun pb on Saturday, I realised I had run for 3 days in a row so I had Sunday as a rest day. We made an acai bowl for breakfast, and topped it with a mango and some granola- so summery.

2016-08-07 10.56.27 I made a cake to take over to Andy’s parents (here if you are interested- caramel chocolate bars although I used macadamia nuts instead of hazelnuts), although it was very warm and so it hadn’t set by the time we left to take it over. We had a nice walk in the sunshine- probably around 3 miles (trying to match it against some of my running routes), had dinner in the garden and then watched some of the Olympics.  A lovely relaxing Sunday.

On Monday it was long run time. I am doing the Disneyland Paris half marathon at the end of September (so excited!) and we are off on holiday for a couple of weeks, and I don’t think I will manage many (if any) runs. I am taking my running things with me but with a view to wear them if we do some long walks as the shoes grip better. So I wanted to do about 10 miles to keep the long runs fairly long, and then when I get back I’ll have 3 or 4 weekends to get back up to that distance. I’d signed up to a virtual race as it raised money for GOSH, plus it had a very pretty unicorn medal. Before I left, my medal for 100 miles in July came in the post. Of course I had to wear it for a bit. The company that do this seem to do a 100 mile challenge each month. I’ve not signed up for August as I know I won’t do it, but it is a very cool Olympic themed one. However, the September one just popped up and it’s really pretty, with autumn leaves surrounding it. Seeing as I’ll need to be getting my miles up again for the half, I could be tempted….

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I had a look on Strava as I had not planned a route. I saw my 9 mile route from a few weeks ago, and knew that if I carried on at the end instead of going through the little alleyway, I could make it up to 10.

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It was good running weather- sunny but with a strong breeze, which kept it cool but also made it hard work when I was running into the wind. This field still had a lot of poppies in it, although it’s hard to see from the photo.

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I ran into the park and up the little hill, so treated myself to a little walk at the top while I took a few pictures.

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I ran around both lakes, seeing lots of geese and a few rabbits, before heading uphill back towards town. Here my legs just felt really tired so I had a bit of a walk and a stretch before carrying on.

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I took a photo when I finished, as recently Strava seems to take off a bit of the distance, so if my watch says 10 miles, sometimes when I download it, it says 9.8 miles. Not sure how, but as it was a virtual race and it was meant to be 10 miles, I wanted to have some proof! This one was fine though, so I have sent off my Strava screenshot and shall await the medal.

After this I had some jobs to do at home, and then we walked into town to see Finding Dory (which I really enjoyed)- the local cinema has gone up even more in my estimation because it is no longer a new release, tickets were less than £5 each! I didn’t have a big lunch because I had eaten breakfast so late, so in the cinema I suddenly felt very hungry indeed, so we bought some peanut M&M’s- we never normally buy food in the cinema and hardly ever eat during a film, but we figured seeing as the tickets were so cheap it wasn’t too expensive overall.

Today I headed out on a run first thing before we finished our packing- I explored a new road and have found a new loop of just over 4 miles. All the runs seem to end up going uphill though- our house seems fairly high up- good for when it floods, not so good for running! I was having a look on my phone when I got back and on facebook I am in a “New parkrun” group- and literally as I was on there, they posted the brand new page for parkrun Canada! This is so exciting, as that is where we are going! There are two about to start- one in August and one in September, and this one is actually a place we are visiting. But sadly we won’t be there on a Saturday, so I can’t add another country to my tourism list just yet.

Right, I am off to finish packing.

Are you enjoying the Olympics? I really enjoy seeing sports I would not normally see (like the kayaking, or gymnastics), but the time difference has made it not quite so easy to watch.  I keep getting reminders on my facebook feed from London 2012. The other day I watched a documentary on i-player about the London opening ceremony, which was just so interesting. I had no idea that all of the dancers and performers were volunteers (it was a bit of the parkrun spirit I think) and as well as being interesting it was just brilliant as it brought back all of those fantastic memories.

This popped up today! That is my excited face as we were watching the 200m qualifiers so got to see Bolt and all the other sprinters square up to the cameras.