Runs, snow, dodging tidal waves and wild animal sightings

My blog has been down this past week or so as it is being moved over to new servers- I actually got a new address for it too, but that will be sorted out later. Hopefully it should all be up and working fine now though.

January running has been going well. My next race isn’t until the end of February (the Brighton half) and whereas last year I was going for a time, this year, it’s just for fun. I have no distance goals for each month, so it’s just been great to head out and go as far as I fancy. I discovered a new path near me (well, not really- more like I knew it was there and finally got around to running it) and ended up in some woods. It had to be an out and back run, but I think I can work it into some sort of loop.

Just me and the squirrels- lovely.

I had a run after work one day, and got to try out my new running chest light thing (I have no idea what it is called)- as you can see I was very excited by it! The pavements near here are poorly lit (loads of big trees between the lamp posts and the pavements) and they are very lumpy from the roots, so it is hard to run in the evenings. That is one thing I miss about Hatfield, as we lived right by the business park and the pavements there were new and very well lit (and also always gritted in the ice and snow).

It showed up the frosty patches of pavement really well- hurrah!

It also meant I could read this sign- it is actually quite sad because the cat is ill and they think it’s hiding in a bush or something, but the title made me chuckle as I read it in my head with a huge amount of exasperation. Come on Timmy, you’ve done this before, sort it out…

I was a tail runner at Panshanger parkrun last Saturday- you tend to end up walking (which is fine) so I had wrapped up warm, in my brand new white jacket. It was only when I was chatting to the RD and he commented on the mud, that I thought maybe it wasn’t such a good idea!

Luckily the high viz jacket covered it, and although it was super muddy and slippery in places (and at one point when retrieving a sign I got caught by brambles and nearly fell down a bank) the jacket made it through!

I do love tail running- this time I spoke to a lady for a bit (she thought she would be at the back with me but then overtook some others), but then the other people at the back were all talking to each other, so I ended up chatting to each marshal as they finished. You also get more time to enjoy the lovely scenery, although it was a bit grey and overcast.

On Sunday morning last week, I tried out another new route- this is an old railway line that runs from Welwyn to Hertford. I have seen on Strava that some people run to parkrun this way, but I can’t quite work out how to get there (parkrun is by the lakes just above where it says Hertingfordbury, so it’s a bit of a way from the route)- where I popped up on the map is where some little country roads are, and I think I need to run along those. Exploring for another day. It was so muddy along there though- I really should have worn my trail shoes. 10 miles done though, so that was good.

One of the old platforms along the old railway line. There’s a car park on it now and it seems a lot of people were leaving their cars and then running or cycling along it.

Filthy shoes!

On Thursday the forecast was for snow around rush hour, so our head sent the staff home as soon as the children had left. The traffic was awful, but I got home around 4.30, so I went out on a run as it wasn’t snowing at that point (just raining). Of course it then started when I was out so it turned into one of those sort of manic runs where you are grinning and laughing at the craziness of running in the snow and slush, treading in icy puddles and not being able to see because the snow coats your glasses and gets in your eyes.

It was mostly fun, although one bit of the road always floods (I had forgotten this) and so I had to stand there and wait for there to be a gap in the traffic before running along the pavement as fast as I could to avoid being soaked by a wall of water as a car drove past.

By the time I got home there was quite a covering on the cars and grass, but the roads were all fine. The next morning I had to spent at least 10 minutes chipping away at the ice on my car though- basically the snow had melted a little, slid down the windscreen, and then frozen overnight, so there was a good inch of solid ice around the wipers. I ended up cutting my thumb somehow, and didn’t even notice because my hands were numb.

This weekend was a parkrun on Saturday with my dad (we went to Ellenbrook, which is full of people from my club- after the first small loop you run past the finish area so all the token scanners etc. give you a big cheer- we now get “go on Maria, go on Maria’s dad”- I think they know his name but just like to cheer him on like that now!). It was very icy- all the puddles were solid, and the rutted ground had frozen so we both ran cautiously as we were worried about twisting an ankle or something. 28.54 for my 92nd parkrun.

On Sunday I went along the old railway line again, this time in trail shoes. It was raining gently when I left, and as it was cold I wore my waterproof jacket. The rain got heavier and then I found out that it is no longer waterproof.

I did see a pheasant though, and it was a bit spooky as on my way to Ellenbrook one had flown out in front of me and then flown across the motorway, and I was just thinking about that when this one ran out across the path.

You might be able to see the silhouette of the pheasant- I was too slow getting my phone out.

I also had to race past the big puddle again (took photos while waiting for a gap in the traffic)- you can see the water has gone all over the pavement just from cars splashing it.

Urgh- soggy wet socks to add to all the other wet clothes. I think I might need to clean my trail shoes now too.

Onto other things:

Baking. I have had a bit of a lapse recently, but over the last couple of weekends I have had some time to get on with it. I made these stollen loaves, and they were so good (we took one around to Andy’s parents and it went down a treat). The recipe says to put a sausage shape of marzipan in the middle, but I decided to roll it flat and then roll it (sort of like a swiss roll) as then you get a swirl (and more bites contain marzipan which is a win for me). I also topped them with an egg wash and then some flaked almonds, as I love it when they are nutty.

You can sort of see it here (can’t turn it back from being upside-down).

To take to work (everyone is on a new year health kick) I made these chocolate chia cookies as I was given the Deliciously Ella cookbook last year for Christmas, and although we have had some of the savoury things from there, I’ve not tried any sweet things yet. Hopefully they will be well received.

Yoga– after a break over the holidays it was back on this week and it was just what I needed. It was a lovely gentle class, to ease us back in, although I was still aching from it this morning!

Wildlife– On Saturday afternoon (about 2pm) we were just having a bit of lunch before walking into town, and out of the corner of my eye I saw something in our garden. When I looked, it was a fox climbing over the 6ft fence by our patio doors.

As it disappeared, a second fox came and tried to jump over. It couldn’t manage it, so it went off to the back of our garden. A little while later, the first one jumper back over the fence and wandered about a bit and jumped over a different fence, and then as I was trying to take some pictures the second one appeared again. They were both wandering around without a care it seemed.

It is so unusual to see foxes during the day like this. I hope they managed to find each other again. What was even stranger was that as we were running around Ellenbrook that morning, as I dodged the “water feature” I was thinking that years ago I saw a fox there, in the middle of the day, when I was on a run (although I didn’t mention it as we were running single file at that point). Weird.

Do you see much wildlife where you live? I have seen deer on occasion, especially around Hatfield House, but mainly it is just birds. We have a few robins that come into our garden which I love to see. Did you have much bad weather this week? The worst thing here was that our work car park has a big dip in the middle, and so overnight the snow had slid into it, and then frozen, so it was basically like an ice rink (our caretaker was off sick last week)- I had to hold on to the side of my car to get to the end of it, and then basically slide across it to get to the edge- not fun! After we had located the grit, all the staff went out to sort out the paths, and by home-time it was fine. They cancelled the junior parkrun today because they found ice under the mud, but most of my run seemed fine (there was the odd icy patch here and there).

New Year and IKEA wanderings

Originally we were going to go to Windsor for New Year’s Day, but the weather wasn’t great, so in the morning we walked into town and had breakfast at Bill’s. We walked the long way home, and got back just before it started to pour down with rain. We got some jobs done at home, and caught up on TV. I also had a very therapeutic time of sorting out my clothes drawers- they had got to the stage where if I needed to put away some washing, I would put it in, push it down and then shove the drawer closed. I cleared out a bag of things for charity, and even organised my running clothes drawers- start as you mean to go on!


The day after the weather was much better, so we drove up to Willen Lakes (in Milton Keynes) and had a lovely, but utterly freezing, walk around the lakes there. I’ve only been there before to run the WR 10K race, and it was good to have more time to enjoy the scenery. In the shade the paths were still so frosty and slippery. Annoyingly my back had got very stiff in the car on the drive up there so I could not walk very fast.

We then drove to the IKEA there to get the drawers.All we needed to do was check the drawers (we noticed that they came in white, or white wash, and we needed to see which one we actually liked) but we were in there for an hour! Argh! I had a little wander in the little food shop (I love their little marzipan roll things) and I was so excited to see these- mini orange dime bars! Who even knew they existed? That was our treat for the second IKEA visit in a few days.


I can confirm that they taste as good as they sound.


New chest of drawers for our bedroom- one drawer for hats and one for scarves instead of me leaving them on the banister/ in “neat” piles on top of furniture.


New shoe rack/ bench for by our back door (plus a shoe tray underneath to catch all the bits of mud)- for running and walking shoes.

On Tuesday I was going to have a run, but my back was still not right, so I just did some gentle walking instead. I had to walk into town to collect some online orders (I’d ordered a perfume set to be collected from Boots, and on Saturday we had missed a couple of parcels).


One of my bargains was a Bluebird Tea Blend your own Tea kit, plus these cute mini matcha tubs- they do a pick your own tube so you can try their flavours without being stuck with a massive expensive tin of it. I’ve had their rooibos matcha honey before and it’s delicious, so as I was ordering anyway I added it to the basket.


Fat Face lounge pants (I can wear festive patterns all through the winter!)- these have cuffs around the ankles so the cold air can’t get in, yet another hat, plus boots and a scarf (for the free delivery) from White Stuff.


White running jacket (it’s so cosy) and capri’s from Lululemon- you still get a bag when you order online. These were very much reduced, although the prices seem to fluctuate daily- the first order I placed didn’t go through properly, and a few days later the same order was about £20 less, and now the jacket is about 4x the price I paid. 

I also did a lot of sorting out in the kitchen (following on from my clothes sorting)- I have re-arranged the baking cupboard, sorted out the tea cupboard and made everything more organised. I’d bought this peanut butter from Morrison’s a while back (it’s 100% peanuts, no oil or salt or anything) so I decided to make some of my favourite snacks with it:


Dates filled with a little peanut butter, then drizzled with dark chocolate.


I also made some chocolate coated figs, chocolate coated brazil nuts, and chocolate dipped dried mango. They are all good, but the dates will be finished first!

How was your new year? Did you get any bargains in the sales? I was thinking the other day that they used to be the January sales, but now they start online on Christmas Eve!

Southampton parkrun- the final tourism of 2016

On the Friday before New Year’s Eve, we drove down to Southampton so we could visit family on the Saturday. Handily, they have a parkrun that I could run to from our hotel, so that was the plan.


I knew where the park was, as we often park near it and then walk into the town centre. However, our hotel was in a new part of town surrounded by lots of building work, and I wasn’t quite sure how to get to the centre from the hotel- I got a bit lost, and when I looked on my phone at the maps the 1.8 miles to the start had turned into 2.3. You can see in the above picture where I headed south before realising and heading in the right direction!


Anyway, I made it (thanks google) and with a bit of time to spare. The new runners briefing was very useful as I had forgotten to even look at the course page to see if there were laps (yes, there are two laps on this course- I heard some people talking and it seems they have a summer course too so that may be different).

There were so many people! I’ve never seen one like it. The finish funnel should have been a warning- normally it’s only about 2 metres long.


It went on and on and on…

I was glad of the new runners briefing as I could not hear any of the main briefing- I was too far back (and not even at the back) and some people were talking. I did join in with the clapping (3 sets- one for the volunteers, and I am guessing that some people got their milestones?).

I took it gently- I hadn’t run since doing the 10 mile race on Tuesday, and had since been ill, so I felt very tired even after the run to the start. The course itself was good- all on tarmac paths, it was flat, then sloped up for a bit, before going down towards the start. There was a handy sign with “First lap (arrow), Second lap (arrow)” on it (I forget which way the arrows went)- and of course with that many people it was easy to follow the runners around you. It was very congested though- I think even in the second lap it didn’t thin out much. I did get overtaken by a couple of the front runners- they run so fast but also so smoothly- it was interesting watching them beside the rest of us all shuffling along.

Then, the finish, and this was so impressive. When you finish any parkrun, you are given a little plastic token. It took me many runs to realise it had a number on it (your finishing position), but it also has a barcode. As you finish, the person timing presses the stop watch, and then you move to the end of the funnel to get your token. When you have got your breath back, you get your finish token and your personal barcode scanned together, and later when the results are processed, the finishing position and times are matched up. I was wondering how they would do it on such a large scale. I was sent into the left hand funnel, where I joined the queue to get the token.


A little after, someone was sent into the right hand funnel, carrying a big letter D. They then closed off the funnel that I was in. It seems to work so that once all the people in the C section had finished they would start giving tokens to the D people, and so on. So very clever.


I was number 470/646 runners- I don’t even think I’ve been to one with even 400 runners before, let alone 600+!


After I got my chip scanned, I started walking back (although I got confused and ended up walking away for a bit), and then once I got out of the park I started running again. I was very tired after that and had already decided that I would not be doing a parkrun on New Year’s Day.


My time came through later- 30.22- not bad seeing as it was wedged in a longer run. If I go back (I am sure I will) I will have to try and beat that time and at least get under 30 minutes. When I reached the town centre, I popped into Starbucks to get us both breakfast, and walked back to the hotel from there- I’d run over 7 miles at that point and it was probably another half a mile to go- I was so tired!

After breakfast, we had a quick (is that possible?) visit to IKEA, as we could walk there from our hotel (we wanted to look at a chest of drawers for our bedroom, and ended up getting a shoe rack for our utility room, plus a few tins for baking bits), and then we drove to Andy’s Grandma. Andy was going to football, so we drove back, basically to where the parkrun starts, and then walked into town. I am not the best shopper, but I had a few bits to do (I needed to return a jumper to John Lewis, and I had some vouchers to spend). I also wanted to go to Decathlon as lots of people I know seem to get great bargains on Asics trainers. Anyway, I walked there and found a few that looked good, but then on closer inspection they had no size 6’s in stock for any of the shoes- boo! I’d packed a magazine with me so I went and sat in a cafe with a cup of tea to wait for the match to finish- that is a better use of my time than more traipsing around the shops. By the time we had walked back to the car I had walked over 30,000 steps, so it was quite a shock to the system after being fairly sedentary for a few days.


When we got home the first thing I did was plug in my Garmin and see the stats- 1,005 miles for 2016! Phew!

How many people go to your local parkrun? What is your highest and lowest placings? The highest before this for me was 264 at Wimpole Estate, and I have finished 16th at both Aldenham and Crissy Field. Do you like shopping? 


So how did 2016 go?

I love having a look back at the previous year at this time- it’s so nice to see what has been achieved and enjoyed in one year, and makes you feel like the possibilities are endless for the coming twelve months.


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In 2015 I earned my 50 run t-shirt, and in 2016 it was the turn of my 25 volunteer t-shirt. As well as sticking with my tried and tested roles of marshal, tail runner and doing the new runners briefing, I tried some new roles including token sorting (not good on a freezing cold day it turns out), photographer, time keeping and writing the run report. I wanted to do some more parkrun tourism, and in 2016 I visited Gadebridge in Hemel, Aldenham, Barclay in Hoddeston, Wimpole Estate, Hove Prom in Brighton (although I had been there once before), Tring, Portobello in Edinburgh, Preston Park in Brighton, Swindon, and Southampton Common.

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At Ellenbrook Fields 

Ellenbrook fields parkrun in Hatfield was started by people from my running club and I’ve run there a few times so my total is now 14 different parkruns (13 in the UK), hopefully by the end of 2017 I will have reached 20.  I’m now on 90 parkruns so the 100 runs t-shirt is next on my list. Finally I managed course pb’s at both Panshanger and Ellenbrook.

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They let me ring the pb bell at Tring as it was my first time there = course pb! We need to go back as it was so foggy we didn’t see any of the beautiful scenery.


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The year started off with me being given the “Runner of the Year” award from my club, which was very unexpected. I was following my training from the previous year (where I had trained for a marathon) to try and break 2 hours for the half marathon in Brighton- I was elated when I managed it.  I completed the following 16 races: Fred Hughes 10 miles, London Winter 10k, Brighton half (1.59.09), Welwyn half marathon (where I fell over near the end and badly cut my hands and bruised my hips), Beaconsfield 5 mile trail race (this one I should have just watched, but I wanted to run as my dad was also running it), Cakeathon where I did a half marathon, WR 10K at Willen Lakes, Ware 10 miles, Hatfield House Midsummer 5 mile race, Panshanger Park Midsummer 5 mile race, Disneyland Paris half marathon, Herts 10K with my dad, Bright10 10 miles, Hatfield 5 miles (43.58 new 5 mile pb), Festive Five and Buntingford 10 miles. Most of these races were for the fun of it- I was aiming for a pb in Brighton for the half, and I didn’t expect a pb in Hatfield for the 5 miles. I also tried to run with Ben (401 marathons) but after a mix up with where the runners were, I ended up getting to the finish point just after he had finished running for the day- ah well at least I tried.

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Check out the bling! Although I did a “Rate my Run” for Marathon Talk and neither of them knew who Flavor Flave was! He knows what time it is…

Towards the end of December 2015, I noticed too late that I was close to 1000 miles for the year. In 2016, I noticed in November, and so had a big effort for the final two months of the year. I just managed it, totaling 1,005 miles for the year. I had signed up to a few of the 100 miles in a month challenges, managing 116 in July, 100 in September and 109 in December.


I don’t have any particular aims this year, although I think I am going to enter less races. I’ve signed up for a few (Brighton half, Lea Valley half with my dad, the Wings for Life run, and I’ll probably do Welwyn half as it’s so local). A few years ago I wanted to get a sub 60 10k, then it was to get under 5 hours for the marathon, and then a sub 2 hour half. Now they have been achieved I suppose I should try and get my 5k time down a bit, but really I am just enjoying running and not worrying about speed, so who knows what I’ll end up doing.

Moving house

2016 was a big year in that we sold our first house, and moved to a new house. We put our house up for sale in January and although we sold it straight after holding an open house, it took us a while to find somewhere we liked (and to have an offer accepted as it was all very competitive and fast-moving). We finally moved just before May half term, and so the second half of the year has been filled with decorating and generally sorting things out (decorated my office and our bedroom, got a new shed, getting rid of the sensor in the bathroom and adding a light switch, new flooring in two rooms…). It’s going to take us a while to work around all of the rooms- nothing is bad but the decoration is not to our taste, and some of our furniture doesn’t fit the new rooms (our old place had no chimney or anything so the walls were flat- here we have alcoves that the big pieces don’t fit into).

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I was far too amused by the names for some of the paint colours…

I am learning new running and walking routes, and the novelty of being able to walk into town is not wearing off. We’ve been to the little local cinema quite a few times, and we’ve even walked into town for breakfast- something we could not do where we used to live.

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As a fan of the Radio 5 film podcast, I laugh every time I see this poster in the cinema.


We do love our holidays, but we we were looking at moving house the plan was to have less holidays (we’d already booked our summer trip to Canada before this happened). Then Andy had to go to Cape Town for work, and we were allowed to go during May half term so I could go too. This was an amazing opportunity, and we had a fantastic time in Cape Town and then going on Safari, although moving house on Tuesday and going on holiday on the Friday night was not the easiest!  We had quite a few weekends away including going to Disneyland Paris for the half marathon, Brighton a few times for various races, Edinburgh for a long weekend, Bath for the spa and Christmas market, and Colmar for a European Christmas market. We’ve not booked anything for this year just yet, but we are probably going to do some trips closer to home.

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Canada is just amazing

How was 2016 for you? Any goals or aims for 2017?