Happy times in the sunshine

I love the Easter holidays. It feels like such a treat. I know that I am very lucky indeed to have a lot of holiday (and I am not going to go on about it, but in term time the hours are pretty much 8-5/5.30 including working most of lunch time, coming home and then doing more work in the evening, plus work at weekends, so it does even out during the year), and for some reason Easter is more chilled out than Christmas. I think over the Christmas break you are trying to fit in visiting family or hosting family, last minute shopping or gift wrapping (or cake decorating), and it seems to fly by. The summer holidays can be busy especially if you are moving to a new classroom, and we generally tend to have a longer holiday in the summer too. Easter is a perfect balance- two weeks off but with no real pressure to do anything. Next week we are off to the north for a week of walking outside and visiting new places, and this week has just been a perfect time to recharge my batteries.

I’ve had the perfect balance of time to myself, a little extra time with Andy (as he works from home some days we have had lunch together on a few days which feels like such a treat) and time to meet up with others. I’ve managed to catch up with a few friends (although some of my teacher friends are not off until next week so that has scuppered our usual meet up plans), and I’ve had plenty of walks- I am meeting my steps target every single day this holiday!

There are some woods fairly close by (half a mile up the road) so I’ve been there a few times to stretch my legs as a walk, or as a bit of a muddy run, listening to podcasts and enjoying being outside.

On principle I refused to do any work on the Monday (I managed three walks that day- one in the morning, one with friends when they visited and one with Andy around to the shops in the evening). He laughs at me for getting antsy but I just can’t sit around and to me a walk is relaxing.

On Tuesday I had a massage (perfect timing following the half marathon)- I was even told my shoulders weren’t too bad! I’ve never been told that before!  I was given a Costa voucher at Christmas in the Secret Santa, so I decided to walk into town and use it- I was going to get a toasted teacake but they had run out, so an almond croissant it was (more tasty anyway).

I’ve managed a few runs this week (the temptation is to run each day if I am not busy, but I know I am not good after 3 runs in a row)- I’ve just been taking them as gentle runs (Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings). I was very impressed when I noticed that my nail polish matched my leggings! We must celebrate these matches when they happen! I’ve been trying out some newer trainers too- I do tend to favour Asics trainers but the last ones I bought were the wrong ones (GT1000 instead of GT2000)- they just felt a bit stiff and just not right so they are now my parkrun marshaling and gardening trainers. Sports Shoes had a sale so I got these black and pink ones (the right ones, GT 2000) as they are from the Autumn range, and they feel much more springy although sorting out the laces has taken a bit of fiddling. I wished that I had bought two pairs of the last ones I had, as they are nearing 500 miles and feel a bit more flat now, but by the time I think of it they have always sold out of my size everywhere I look.

I’ve also spent time with family (my sister-in-law and niece, and my parents), been out in the garden digging up yet more brambles, and alongside that managed a lot of work, making a big start on reports (they are not due until May but need to be proof read so it all takes a while). This lovely weather has helped no end. On Thursday I was out all morning, came home to get on with a few hours of work and then we decided to walk the long way into town as we needed to go to the library and get some shopping. The sun shining makes such a difference as it’s just great to be outside.

What do you like to do when you have time to yourself? Do you have any plans for the long weekend? What would your favourite cafe treat be? A Starbucks cinnamon roll takes some beating I think, but it is very closely followed by an almond croissant.

Lee Valley half marathon 2017- running with my dad

As I have mentioned before, I had signed up to run the Lee Valley half marathon on Sunday. The main reason was that my dad decided he wanted to run a half marathon. I had suggested a lot of different ones to him, and in the end this one ticked the boxes- local so we could go there on the morning, late enough in spring so that he would have time after his holiday to train, an interesting sounding route, and he would be allowed to raise money for a charity of his choice. He had run a half marathon before when he was younger (the Berkhamsted half for anyone local, although back then it was two laps so the awful mile long steep hill was repeated) but had really struggled and not enjoyed it at all.

He has been keeping me updated on his training (and our family via his Just Giving Page- raising money for MNDA as his cousin has recently been diagnosed)- he’s been sensible as he has a slight ligament issue (he had around a year when he couldn’t even run a parkrun as his knee had to heal, he had to give up tennis because of the twisting and turning, and now he runs with a knee brace the whole time) and also he does a lot of cycling so was making sure to have rest days and not run long the day after a long bike ride. He’d managed an 18k run a week and a half ago, a bit later than he had planned because he’d had a virus, and although he’d completed it he had to walk sections of the final few km. I felt like that was plenty but he was a bit apprehensive on the morning of the race.

I had toast for breakfast, and even put on suncream as it was already very sunny. Dad picked me up just after 8am and drove to the water park. Lee Valley is where the water sports were held in the Olympics, and now it is used as a sports venue for white water rafting and kayaking. There are also miles of pathways by rivers and canals, lots of bird spotting hides and picnic areas. We had to park on a field but as it was so dry this wasn’t an issue. It was a short walk to the main building- the reception was downstairs and there were clear signs directing you upstairs to the cafe and sun terrace, where you could collect your number.

It was a gorgeous morning for a race – sunny but quite chilly first thing. We had to collect our numbers in the morning and that was very easy with about a 5 minute queue, and then we waited outside on the terrace looking out across the fields and waterways. We decided to visit the toilets (as it was a building they had real ones and not port-a-loos which means I will actually use them) before finally going to the bag drop so we could keep our jumpers on for as long as possible. The bag drop was right next to the registration desk, so it was all very handy. We bumped into a few girls from the club- lots doing the 10K and a few doing the half. The 10K started at 9.45, so they all headed off to the start. There was a little confusion as the 10k start was in a slightly different place to the half, added to that the inflatable finish arch having the word “Start” emblazoned across it. But they have said they were aware of this so would sort that out next year (this was it’s first year).

The half began at 10am, and we started off fairly near the back. A while ago we were thinking of around 2.10, but after Dad was ill and then had a bit of a struggle at the end of his longest run, we took all time off the table and just said we would run steadily- he didn’t want to need to walk any of it. We enjoy running parkrun together, and this was just extended really. We kept at a pace where we could chat the whole time, and just enjoyed the scenery. The Lee Valley park was lovely and well worth a visit- I was so impressed that instead of being left to rot, something good for the community and nature has come of it. We ran along canal towpaths, by the side of rivers, past a huge weir, past wetlands and through little wooded areas. We saw plenty of people out walking and cycling and at one point there was even a sort of dog training park with A-frames and hoops and things for the dogs to jump over and through.

The course was two laps, although they weren’t identical as you didn’t run through the finish area in the first lap- there was a bit of an out-and-back before you joined the loop, which you then repeated in reverse at the end of the second loop to get back. It was clearly signposted and there were mile markers (and km markers for the 10K)- it is never good seeing the 8 mile marker when you are only a few miles in, but as it was so flat and so pretty it didn’t ever feel too long. There were lots of marshals out on the course, and arrows all over the place too. We stopped at three water stations for a sip of water (around mile 4, 8 and 11) as it was fairly warm and at the final one ended up chatting to a girl who was struggling- she told us many of her injuries and illnesses that had happened during her training, but at least by this point there were only a few miles to go so we could encourage her with that thought.

I just felt so happy during the run- the sun was shining, the breeze was keeping me fairly cool, I was chatting with Dad and thanking all the marshals. One of them commented (in a jokey way) that we weren’t running hard enough as we were still talking, and at the end Dad asked if the time was OK for me. It’s hard to explain, but (despite my moan about Brighton half last week) I don’t run for time. I could have run faster, but then I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much, and sometimes it is just good to properly enjoy the race. At 10 miles I said “just a parkrun to go” which Dad found very amusing. When we got to 11 miles Dad mentioned it was uncharted territory for him as this was beyond the 18k he had managed in training, but he was still feeling fine (a bit achey) and we didn’t need to walk.

As we neared the finish line we saw a group of OH ladies (who had run the 10K) and gave them a big shout.

One of them took a few photos of us as we were running and they are just great as they totally sum up the race- we just enjoyed the whole thing.

The finish area was right by where people were canoeing, so it was brilliant to see everyone using the rapids and flipping upside-down. They had a cool conveyor belt thing that people sat on in their canoes, and it carried them to the top of course so they could then canoe downhill through the rapids, and then repeat.

At the finish area we had a drink (I’d packed nuun tabs in my pocket) and they gave us a banana so we stretched and watched other people finish for a bit. Of course we had to attempt a sweaty selfie- it is not easy to take a photo as neither of us are good at keeping our eyes open when there is a camera about!

We then walked back to the cafe area (bumping into two of the club half marathon runners- one had managed a pb despite it being a training run for the London marathon!), picked up our bag, and then we decided to have a drink in the cafe. The car park didn’t close until 2pm and we didn’t end up leaving until around 1pm (we did some more stretches on the grass by the car before heading home).

The medal is lovely too (although I do sort of wish it wasn’t the same as the 10K one…). It was their first event and I hope they do it again next year as it was well organised and such a pretty route. One I would look at doing again for sure.

Our finish times were 2:17:42 (and 4), but that wasn’t why we did it. Dad was totally chuffed as it was a pb for him, but he was over the moon to finish feeling strong and not struggling, not needing to walk at all, and of course raising money for MNDA (£600 at last count).

What do you most enjoy about races? How was your weekend?

So did I still run a sub 2 hour half?

But first, the Easter holidays are here!

As I got back late on Thursday we had a nice walk, and then on Friday I had a lovely 4 mile run along the old railway line- it was funny weather though- blue skies in one direction and black skies in the other.

I was pretty hungry when I got home so I had my favourite post-run snack- a couple of dates dipped in peanut butter.

Now the evenings are lighter, we have a lovely view of the garden while we are eating our dinner. Although the garden isn’t a priority (we still need to decorate a lot of inside) I would like some more colour.

Onto the Brighton half. Andy ran it in 2012 (I was signed up but was then waiting for an op so was not allowed to run- and couldn’t run even if I had wanted to), I ran it in 2013 and got myself a pb (2:12:47), I ran it in 2015 as part of my marathon training and got an unexpected pb (2:04:10), in 2016 I was aiming for my first sub 2 hour half, and managed it (1:59:09), and then in 2017 where I was aiming for an enjoyable 2 hours 10 ish (2:03:23).

I had heard rumblings that it was short this year, but when people go on about GPS not being accurate I don’t tend to listen. I know usually people complain that the course was long, and forget about the weaving between crowds, but GPS watches are not 100% accurate, and can get confused by tall buildings, underpasses etc. Plus very frequently my Garmin will say a round figure (e.g. 5 miles) and when I upload it to Strava it will round down and say 4.9 miles (which was very annoying when I was doing 100 mile months as I always had to run a bit further to make up for the bit that would be taken off.). On Friday it was confirmed:

It’s been short by 0.09 mile in 2015, 2016 and 2017. So basically for 3/4 times I have run it, it hasn’t been the right length. This has really annoyed me. I know on the outside that times really don’t matter, but since I started running half marathons (and read in that book that a 2 hour half was “average”) I have been aiming to achieve one. It was tough, I had mental battles during the run and I really didn’t know if I could manage it. So now I have to think theoretically could I have run 0.09 miles in 50 seconds? I think I could have done- my average pace for my fastest one was 9.08.

According to one site, I would need 49.32 seconds at my average pace, which would get me in 1 second under 2 hours. But it doesn’t really matter because who knows if I would have been able to carry on? If it was a small, local race with a cheap entry then I would not mind as much, but it’s one of the Vitality series, it isn’t cheap (and yes I know they need to close roads, but we didn’t get a t-shirt this year, despite the other Vitality ones getting one) and they advertise that it’s a UKA certified course. I think it’s terrible that they don’t check the course length each year- having it short for one year is bad enough (Manchester marathon) but for three years? At least they are owning up to it rather than trying to sweep it under the carpet, but it is disappointing all the same as I thought I had achieved something, and now I haven’t. 2:06:58 I suppose is now my official half pb, run at Bath in 2014 (a race I would rather forget as it was a pretty bad experience).  I did run a short 10k race once (In Nottingham- we had run it previously and it was a two lap going through the finish area, but when it was short- 5.7 miles, you began the second lap before getting to the finish area, but they later came out and said it was because of flooding on the field so at least they owned up right away).

I really love running in Brighton because of the great views, the brilliant crowd support and I don’t need much of an excuse to have a weekend there. Next year I was going to run Cambridge instead (as I think I get a guaranteed place from marshaling) and so their gesture of a discount for 2018 is not helpful.

I am not a runner who chases a pb each week or month or even year, and I don’t get worried about my pace- I run because I enjoy it, and occasionally because I want to achieve a specific goal. So at the end of the day I still ran a long way, had some nice weekends away and had some fab medals to add to my collection. It would make me think twice about signing up to a Vitality event though.

This morning I was having an early breakfast before marshaling at parkrun, and I was enjoying all the April Fool jokes coming up on parkrun pages.

I particularly liked Preston Park, who said that all Brighton parkruns would be 146cm shorter.

Tring seemed to catch a lot of people out, saying they would need to move their parkrun to make way for major tree planting.  They had gone to a lot of trouble by adding some detailed information on their “news” page including photos and artist’s impressions of what the woodland would look like.

Ellenbrook had decided to run their route in reverse this week, for some fun. It was a bit complicated as we have a small loop and then a large loop, so working out the logistics of when people turn and which way to direct them took a bit of sorting out. I was with Dad (we’re under the arrows in the photo) at the start of the looping bits- by the 2km post (so 2km to go this way around)- we had to direct runners left over the little bridge and around the loop, and then when they came back to us from the opposite direction, we had to get them to turn right and repeat that outside part of the loop again. We had some clackers each (Ellenbrook has a selection of instruments so I don’t need to bring any from work any more)- we saw my brother and a few runners from the club and had fun giving everyone cheers. The reversal seemed to go well with only one person going wrong – he got to one marshal who was directing people back to us on their first loop, and he decided to go straight to the finish before realising he had gone too soon, and so he went back and finished it properly.

We said after it seemed like fun so have requested that maybe for their birthday they would run it in reverse again so we would get a chance to do it.

The rest of Saturday went like this:

Get home and have a cup of tea (I was really cold from marshaling- I wished I had gloves with me). Watch a bit of TV with Andy before he left for the football. Have some toast and rooibos tea.

Make a simnel cake. While it was baking in the oven (for an hour), I went outside to plant some bulbs while listening to some podcasts. I needed to weed the area first. I found a lot of brambles and stinging nettles. The brambles stretched everywhere. When I had to come in to take the cake out of the oven I had not even begun with the bulbs. I hung the towels up outside. Ended up weeding for two hours and made several huge piles as our brown bin was basically full before I started.

Found a magnolia tree! I have always wanted one and it has just started to flower (which is lucky as otherwise we would have probably chopped it down). However it’s very close to the fence so I am not sure if we should move it in the autumn…

Took my car to the car wash (this was weird- it was a drive through hand car wash, so I sat inside while the men sprayed water and foam and then rubbed it with sponges- it felt very awkward!) on my way to the supermarket. Bought ingredients for hot cross buns (we made them at work this week which of course made me want to make them at home). Got home feeling very hungry- had pineapple, yoghurt and some coconut water. Made the hot cross bun dough.

While it was rising, had a walk catching up on some podcasts.

Had a cup of tea, rolled the dough into bun shapes, checked the travel arrangements for the half marathon tomorrow and then had dinner. I am hoping that 2 hours of gardening is good prep for a half marathon….

Have you ever run a race that ended up being officially short? Would you still keep the time/ pb? Did you see any good April Fools? Do you like hot cross buns? I was in M&S a few weeks ago perusing the many flavours (apple and cinnamon/ cranberry and orange) and a lady walked past and said “urgh, all these different flavours… hot cross buns should be traditional. Oh look, cheese ones, they sound nice“. I was laughing inside for a long time. And no, she is wrong, cheese hot cross buns sound disgusting and I do not use that word lightly.