Recovering or tapering? Upcoming races and a peanut butter cheesecake.

On Saturday afternoon, after a walk into town, I made a cheesecake. I bought the Pip and Nut cookbook a while back, and it had caught my eye (peanut butter and raspberry cheesecake- basically a pb&j dessert) and as we were going to Andy’s parents for tea on Sunday it seemed perfect for that.

You made the base first (not by crushing biscuits, but by making a sort of biscuit mixture from scratch and baking it), and then came the filling- loads of cream cheese, eggs, a bit of vanilla and sugar all whipped up. Then a few tbs peanut butter was swirled in.

Finally raspberries were mixed in before it was poured onto the base and then baked.

It went a beautiful pink colour from the raspberries. At this point, as I poured it over the base, I realised that there was so much cheesecake mixture that it would overflow, so I had to get out another tin and cook just the filling in that. We ended up with two cheesecakes but one had no base (as I did not have the time to make another base and let it cool).  I didn’t take a photo of the finished cheesecake (poor show I know, but I am sure you have all seen a cheesecake before..), but there wasn’t much left after Sunday tea anyway! It was a good recipe but next time I would make less topping because of the size of my pan.

On Sunday morning I had a lie in (I didn’t set my alarm) and then headed out on a long run at around 9am. It was meant to rain, but thankfully it stayed fairly dry, with a few bits of drizzle every now and then. I couldn’t decide how far to go or which route to go, so in the end I did an out and back in the direction of Panshanger parkrun, although I didn’t quite get all the way there. I wanted to do 8-10 miles, as next weekend I have another half marathon. It is confusing- am I recovering from the half marathon, training for the next one or tapering for it? I’m not sure how many miles I would usually do the week before- it depends on the goal for the race really. The one next week is the Welwyn one, where I fell over last year and really cut up my hands, bruised my hip and hurt my back, so my main aim is to finish without needing to see the paramedics after! On Sunday after a couple of miles I was just feeling tired, but I think it was a bit more psychological, and so I took a few photos and distracted myself, and before I knew it I was at the half way point and could turn around. (I had another break then where I messaged Andy so he knew my ETA). As I got home my watch said 8.92 miles, so I went up and down the road to make it up to the full 9- I am not normally bothered by this apart from when it is really close to the next full mile.

A few weeks ago we had picked up some chocolate twists (basically like pain au chocolat) in Waitrose, as they were reduced, so before I had left I had got them out of the freezer. I had a shower while Andy heated up the oven, and then we had a lovely breakfast- I had a bit of granola with berries too. By that point it was raining quite hard, so our original plans of walking into town vanished, so I did some baking for work (more of those almond/jam things from the Hygge cookbook).

Our decorating / finishing touches are still going on- I bought this print (from Etsy) in the Christmas holidays, but we only just got some masonry nails so it is finally up and I love it!

After thinking about the Welwyn half this week, I half remembered my plan to do slightly less races this year. I think I have managed to resist a few (lots from my club did the Fred Hughes 10, and an Essendon 10k), but I still have a few:

The Welwyn half marathon is next weekend- plan to finish in one piece. Two weeks later I am doing the Lee Valley half marathon with my dad. We are hoping for around 2.10 as long as it isn’t too hot.

I have then got the Wings for Life race in May- no idea how far I will manage to run for that (it’s where you all start, and then a bit later a catcher car starts to drive, and when it passes you, you drop out), but maybe around 8 miles I think.

This week I signed up to the London 10 Mile– It’s 10 miles on the 4th of June in Richmond park. There is also a family fun run and a picnic in the park after. Some of the profits go to parkrun, which is amazing. I have been given a place in the race which is great, so I am going to give some money to my local parkrun instead of paying for it.

Which races do you have coming up? Do you tend to do the same ones each year? Are you a cheesecake fan? It’s not my favourite dessert, but a really good one (hello Cheesecake Factory) can sway me.

Linford Wood parkrun (number 99!)

First up- after saying how tired I felt last week, I ended up with a bit of a sniffly cold earlier in the week so maybe that was it. I took the week very easily, with a gentle 3 miles after work on Monday, and yoga on Tuesday (it’s normally Wednesdays but the hall was booked). Actually, that wasn’t so gentle- we did some (well I attempted) handstands and headstands- normally we do the tripod headstand but we tried a different (and apparently easier) one, but my shoulders were not strong enough and I didn’t make it. At one point one of the other people asked “is it blanket time yet?”- it was enjoyable and relaxing in the end, but my shoulders ached a lot afterwards. I had a late meeting on Wednesday so we had a walk before dinner, and on Thursday I visited my sister and my niece. I was planning on running on Friday after work but my back had stiffened up so I opted for a walk instead. I certainly had fresh legs for parkun on Saturday.

We were up early- I picked my parents and brother up before 8am, as it was around 50 minutes to an hour to drive up to Milton Keynes. I decided to have a little bit of breakfast as I would normally be up a bit later, so I had a little bit of granola.

We were meeting my dad’s cousin at Linford Wood parkrun- he has done a lot of running in the past (the GNR something like 15 times) and we thought that he had done a parkrun in Milton Keynes before (which is why we had arranged to go up there) but it turned out that last week was his first one- he did a sort of recce to find out where the parking was and what the course was like. The description of where it was on the page was a little confusing (MK is confusing generally with a million roundabouts, road numbers instead of names, and it all looks the same) and the satnav postcode didn’t quite take us the right way at the end- luckily we had read the instructions that said to follow signs for Linford Wood West, which we did, and reached the car park at around 8.45, to see Brian and his wife Maureen (Maureen is my dad’s real cousin, but Brian has always been known as “cousin Brian” as he is a bit older than my dad so as he grew up Brian was already in the family).

We followed the other runners along the path to the start, and had a new runner’s briefing more or less straight away. The guy giving the talk asked where people had come from, as there was a big group of tourists from various places (including Cornwall and Brighton). I said we were from Ellenbrook in Hatfield, but then realised I was wearing my Panshanger apricot t-shirt (I have an Ellenbrook vest). Someone else commented that they had been to Panshanger and loved it- it is a very beautiful course.

The main briefing warned us to give way on the paths- apparently there is often a horse on the course. I was very impressed with how silent everyone was during the briefing- sometimes people at the back chat and you can’t hear what is being said (you just join in with the clapping and guess “that’s for the volunteers, that’s for a milestone run” etc.). I think having everyone penned in (we were behind tape so as not to obstruct the path for others) must have helped. We then walked the short distance to the start, heading to nearer the back. The start was the direction of the way we had just come, so at first (without realising) we were right at the front, but once we noticed we headed back.

The course was lovely- one lap through woodland along the redways/ underpasses. At times it was close to traffic (we could hear the busy roads) but at other times we could hear birds singing and it didn’t feel like we were in the middle of a town.  The start was very busy as the paths were narrow, and they had put out cones to keep the runners to the left, away from other park users. If I was aiming for a pb I would start further forwards as I was stuck behind quite a few people- as I wasn’t bothered about time it was fine for me, and when it’s a new (to me) event it’s hard to know where to place yourself. They get a similar number of runners to Ellenbrook it seems (120+ ish) so I would need to picture whereabouts I start for that parkrun. There were lots of houses nearby, hidden in the woods, and at around the half way point we ran around some playing fields- here we could see runners across the road, but that was the only point on the course that you could see anyone else. Dad was going to run with Brian, but Brian was using a heart rate monitor and wanted to go at his own pace without feeling pressure, so Dad soon sped past me and Tony, who spent the run mainly chatting.

The course was undulating in the correct meaning, (not the way race directors call hilly courses “undulating”)- the first mile must have been gently uphill but it felt flat. There were some short down and then ups as you ran under roads, and there was a lovely long downhill bit just after 2 miles. We even joked that we were worried about having to run back up again, but it seemed fairly flat at the end. We saw a little “250m to go” sign and Tony sped up, but I was happy going along at normal speed (I was conscious of having eaten a few hours earlier…)- I managed 30.24 (with the congestion at the start making for a nice negative split), Tony was just ahead with 30.15 and my dad was super speedy finishing in 25.03! We were all there to cheer Brian over the finish line, and he got himself a new pb- he may be a parkrun convert!

We did some stretching and looked out for Mum and Maureen- we thought they had headed to the cafe so we walked there, but they weren’t inside. We then thought they had headed to the car, but as we were going we heard them coming up the path (where the runners finish)- they had gone for a wander in the woods and missed us all finish! We had joked about Mum meeting someone with a dog (she always seems to) and when we met her she had mud on her trousers from where a dog had jumped up on her.

We then had a quick photo to commemorate (this also is very funny as the battery on my mum’s camera was going, so she used my phone and was not 100% sure how to take one- the first picture was just me and Brian).

We then headed back to the car, and visited Brian and Maureen’s house for a well-earned breakfast of croissants and tea. (And although we didn’t see a horse on the parkrun course, we saw one as we were pulling into their road). It was such a great start to the weekend- a really enjoyable course (I really do like the one lap courses and there don’t seem to be that many) and a lovely time spent with family.

So that was my 16th UK parkrun, and my 99th time of running one (although in fact, the first time I was tail runner I didn’t take a finish token!). Next weekend I am marshaling – I was originally going to run, but then Dad and Tony are away (they are going to watch a match in London so have booked a hotel so they can parkrun in London first), plus I am running a half marathon on the Sunday, so I swapped over and will run my 100th all being well on the 25th March.

What did you get up to this weekend? Do you have family living close by to you?

Spring means less porridge

Even though we have still had wind and rain (and frost), spring is on the way. I love having porridge for breakfast but once it starts to get warmer I tend to move over to muesli instead.

I was sent some Lizi’s Granola and have been enjoying them for the past couple of weeks.

All Lizi’s Granolas are:

  • 100% Natural Ingredients
  • No GMO’s
  • No added salt
  • Dairy-free, wheat-free recipes*
  • Suitable for vegetarians and vegans (no honey)
  • Low glycaemic – GL labelled – good for blood sugar control.

Also (I didn’t realise this) you can order from their website if you can’t get them in your local shop.

High protein granola with papaya, passion fruit and coconut yoghurt.

I was sent two varieties; High Protein and Low Sugar.

High protein granola with blueberries and almond milk.

I really love the high protein granola- it is made with oats, soya protein flakes/ crispies, plus almonds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and coconut. It had 27g protein per 100g, which seems a lot for a cereal. It is lovely and crunchy, like granola should be, and it does have some sweetness (there is apple juice and treacle in the ingredients too). I have loved it with yoghurt or almond milk with various fresh fruit toppings.

Andy really likes the low sugar granola (and it only has 3.8g per 100g)- I have tried it a few times and while I like it, it is less granola-like to me, and more like toasted oat cereal- maybe more like toasted muesli?  It has a similar mix of nuts and seeds to the other cereal, and again I’ve had it with either milk or yoghurt, plus some fruit. I think it would be good in bircher muesli (and they have some lovely recipes on their website) so that will be my next try I think. (This one is made with the high protein one but I am sure it would work just as well with the low sugar one).

I have loved all the signs of spring over the last few weeks- there are daffodils everywhere, and then I saw this lovely patch of flowers on a run through town last week. Our garden is starting to come to life a bit too- the willow tree has lots of buds, and there are a few flower buds appearing (no idea what they are). I thought there might be some bulbs but it seems that the previous owners didn’t have any, as nothing has popped up yet. I feel a trip to a garden centre coming on.

I have also loved leaving work in the light- there is a robin that is always in the car park and I managed to get a picture of it sitting on the fence. It makes such a huge difference and makes the day feel so much longer too.

What signs of spring have you seen? How have you been enjoying the longer days? Do you like cereal or granola for breakfast?

*I was sent the granola in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

Manning the water station in Cambridge

On Sunday morning, my alarm was set for 5.20am- ouch! The reason? Our running club were heading to Cambridge- some were running the half marathon, and the rest of us were manning a water station. The coach was leaving the station at 6am.

There was a bit of a mix up at the start- our leader (is she our manager? I don’t know- the head of our club anyway) had organised it, and we had a parking permit for the coach, but when we arrived (well before the 7.30am cut off) we were sent away again- I did feel sorry for our driver as he had already done some spectacular moves to inch the coach past metal barriers and down a right angled turn to get to the car park. Anyway, the volunteers headed off and left the runners on the coach- at least they had somewhere dry to wait as they had two hours before the race began.

We walked to our spot- we were at a water station by a bridge- it would be just after 2 miles and then at 10.8 miles as the runners headed back in the opposite direction. When we arrived they were not ready for us, as the water was just arriving by van, so the guy sent us off to get coffee (for him and us)- we wandered for ages as none of the cafes we passed were open that early on a Sunday. Eventually we found a Caffe Nero but being the only one open was very busy. By the time we walked back (maybe 20 minutes later) other people had arrived and it turned out, taken our jackets (we had to request the right sized crew jacket, and our labelled OH Lady box (with the number of each sizes on it)- was empty)- we were all given XL (unisex) which caused some hilarity- one of our runners who is very tiny looked like an American football player when she filled the space full of air.

We busied ourselves moving the wheelie bins up the street, setting out the water tables and gel tables, and popping the lids off the bottles. They had big yellow signs saying “Water” and “High 5” which I thought for a second meant a sort of cheering high five station, but then realised it was the type of gel…

We had tables on either side of the road, with water, gels and then more water.

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Ready to go (in our gigantic jackets)! We were then told that somehow a guy had found some medium ones so we swapped them over- it still fit easily over my coat which was lucky as it was very cold and raining quite hard.

We even got “training” (we got shown how to hold the water bottles properly) and then were given those blue disposable gloves which turned out to be a brilliant idea. I was feeling very sorry for the runners as it was cold and raining- it’s never good to start running in the rain.

As the water station was fairly early on, for the people going through at the start we didn’t get that many people having water, or gels, although it surprised me the number of people who did have the gels. That’s a debate for another day but I am not a fan of gels at all, and I can’t see why you would need one after running for 2 miles. But anyway…

The rain eased off, and we spotted a lot of our OH ladies coming through- it was hard to spot everyone as we were constantly turning back to the table to get more water. The squeezy bottles were not that great for us because as the runners took them, they would squeeze them and squirt a load of water all over the next person- you were constantly getting splashed in the face from the person in front. There was a drumming band set up on the bridge so we sort of jiggled in time to keep a bit warm- my toes and fingers were going numb after a few minutes.

It didn’t seem like long before the back runners had gone through, but we only had about 5 minutes before the front runners were due to come back in the other direction, so we quickly re-stocked the tables and then turned to face the other way. The drumming band stopped during this bit which was a bit of a shame! Our voices had a bit of a rest as we were constantly shouting “well done runners/ great job guys” etc.

Then the runners were heading back. This time a bit more spread out, but around the 2 hour pacers there was a huge crowd. People would run past and when trying to take a water bottle, would swipe it out of your hand. We then had to try and kick the bottles under the table so no-one would slip on them. The head guy told us to start emptying the tables, so when the front table was empty we moved back, gradually condensing the water to a smaller amount of tables. We saw lots of our OH runners head through, and it was even better as we had an idea of how well they were all doing as we were just over 2 miles from the finish.

Once most of the runners had passed, we helped with some litter picking (although some volunteers had been filling the bins during the race- I think a lot of runners had aimed for the giant wheelie bins but of course accuracy with aiming is not great when running along), and then we had a bit of a lull, so after being given our lunch (I had a hummus roll) I popped into a cafe to use their toilets (I really would only use a port-a-loo in an emergency) and then bought a very expensive and tiny (£2.90…..!!!) cup of tea to warm up as I was shivering and freezing. We saw the final runner head through and gave her a big cheer, before heading back to the coach to find our runners.

I really enjoyed it! So many of the runners said “thanks” on their way past, and time really flew by- we were at the station for about 4 and a half hours but it didn’t feel anywhere near that.

We had a slight hitch when we got back to the coach- the driver had been told to park along the finish straight (by the 13 mile marker) and had been penned in with the metal fences. We were told we would not be allowed to move until 4pm (and this was around 1) but as the final runner headed past, one of the runner’s husbands did some sensible talking to one of the marshals who let us move the  fences and let the coach go. The coach even drove under the inflatable finish arch which was quite funny- the driver really did deserve a medal as he had some very tough maneuvering to do.

By the time I got home I was really tired (not as tired as last Sunday though)- I changed into lounge pants and thermal socks, and had a cup of tea, and it was a good hour before my fingers properly started to warm up again. But it was great- our runners did so well- one of them knocked 20 minutes off her pb, another one paced someone to her first half bringing her in perfectly just under 2hr30, a couple of them had run it last year and both beat their times by quite a few minutes, so it was a great club success.

I did hear somewhere that volunteers get automatic entry into the race next year, so I may see it from the other side in 2018! The medal was pretty nice too.

Does your running club have outings like this? We did pass a spa and wondered about a non-running day trip for next time!  Do you drink or take gels during races? 

Half marathon recovery attempt

After last weekends half, I slept so badly on Sunday night. I didn’t feel too bad afterwards- we walked (slowly) around the town to the station, and because of the train not running through London, we had to get off, walk, get the tube, walk and then get the train back, so I wasn’t still for too long. But at some point during the night my legs cramped up and I barely slept as they were so sore. The stairs were not my friend on Monday!

I had booked a back massage for after work (more apologies from the lovely masseuse as she tried to get the knots out) and then Andy’s parents were coming over, so although it was relaxing, I didn’t have time to foam roll or anything.

Last week yoga has moved to Tuesday, so when I got home I had a quick bath before heading out (it doesn’t start until 7.45)- the stretching helped loads. We did some downward dogs with a partner, and the extra pressure when holding the poses really helped to loosen my muscles.

This has been the entry to our driveway for weeks now- the water pipes are being replaced along our road and they told us this week they may have to dig up our driveway too. The road is narrow and the width between the two lots of fences is only just as wide as my car, and so I have to reverse onto the pavement to get out because you can’t even begin to turn until you are clear of the fences. The other week I (gently) bumped into two wheelie bins on the pavement. I look forward to when they have finished.

On Wednesday I managed just over 3 miles. We also went to the cinema to see Hidden Figures which was just a brilliant film. When things are based on real events it makes it even more fascinating I think, although some of the segregation was just shocking- it is hard to think that this sort of thing went on not that long ago.

After work on Thursday I had a short run, again 3 miles, but it was so slow and my legs just felt so tired. Work had been busy with a couple of extra meetings and a sort of assessment day, but I think it was just that the half marathon tired me out so much. On Friday I was meant to be meeting some friends in Starbucks after work, but it was cancelled so I went to Kwik fit (which was not in any way quick/ kwik)- my tyre pressure light keeps coming on, I keep putting more air in, and then it comes on again, so I had guessed I had a slow puncture but was risking it (mainly because the garage is not open before I start work and often by the time I get home I need to be out somewhere soon..)- I think I was there about 90 minutes in the end- they found a nail and patched the hole so that was good to get it sorted at least.

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I met my dad and brother at parkrun on Saturday- we went to Ellenbrook and they cycled there and home again. It was fairly muddy in places (it poured with rain on Friday night) and I just felt like I had no energy. Dad did a great job of chatting to me and distracting me- I just felt like I had such heavy legs still. It was annoying me as I look forward to parkrun during the week but it felt more like a battle- we finished in 28.58- I like going under 30 minutes but it is crazy that a few weeks ago I was around 2 minutes quicker. It’s just so weird- in December I ran there, did a parkrun and ran home, and then this Saturday I could not even entertain running back to my car. I also forgot to look out for the new permanent km markers- they were unveiled last week, so I’ve seen photos but I wanted to look out for them- next time!

I was off to my parents for breakfast after, and then in the afternoon headed out to meet a friend for a walk in the countryside- we got back to the cars just as it started to rain so it was perfect timing.

I’v got another half marathon in 2 weeks time, so I am hoping that this week my energy returns to normal and I can do some slightly longer runs again.

Have you seen any good films recently? I feel like I have seen loads although a lot of them have been tough watches (apart from La La Land which was fun, although the love story reminded me of Benjamin Button)- Lion was just amazing (but so sad- again being based on real events makes it even harder). Moonlight was really good, and we just watched Once (which was by the guy that did Whiplash)- that had some great music in it, and a  bittersweet story. How do you recover from a hard race?