Marshaling fun and a not so enjoyable race

On Saturday I was off to marshal at Ellenbrook. I’d asked to be on one of the earlier points as my dad’s cousin was coming down from Milton Keynes to run it (we ran with him in Linford Wood earlier in the year), and we were all going to have breakfast together after. They had kindly accommodated me, so after getting my high viz, lanyard and instrument (I chose a cool looking rain stick from Peru), and briefly seeing Dad and Tony get off their bikes and Brian arrive from the car park, I headed off to my spot.

It was a gorgeous morning- blue skies and not too much wind. I was glad I had wrapped up warm. I was looking forward to cheering on all of the runners- I don’t marshal very often as I do like to actually run, but of course the idea is that everyone takes a turn, and the day before a half seemed a good day to rest.

Ellenbrook has a small loop to begin with, and then a larger loop, so I was on Marshal point 2, directing runners first back towards the start (they turned left), and then on their next lap a right turn towards the fields and the bigger lap. As I was waiting, one of my friends, Elaine, turned up, walking her dog. She marshaled last week (taking the excellent flying feet photo) and as she was running a race on Sunday she had decided to walk while her daughter was handing out the tokens. She took photos of the runners as they came through the second time- one of the OH ladies was running her 100th parkrun (and got a pb too!). I commented that usually the front runners don’t lap the tail walker, and then low and behold, as the tail walker came into view so did the front runner, steaming past. I had an arrow so I had to do a bit of jiggling to show them which way to go (left on the first lap, right on the second).  Once they had gone through we walked back to the start, just in time to see Brian and Tony finishing. It was so cold so we didn’t hang around for long.  We then had a lovely breakfast (pancakes- I thought Mum would do them an English breakfast but she knew I was coming so went for those instead) and a great catch up. Brian is a total parkrun convert- next week he moves into the next age category (75-79!)- he’s pretty speedy but at his local parkrun there are two other guys in the same bracket as him consistently going closer to 20 minutes- impressive!

Later we braved the rain to walk into town, and I did a bit of baking (caramel apple blondies) before an evening with the fire beckoned.

On Sunday I was running the Herts half marathon, at Knebworth, a big stately home and grounds by Stevenage. They have hosted big concerts there before (the one in the Oasis documentary) and the medal looked pretty cool. Anyway,  I had heard it was going to be hilly so I was prepared to not chase a time but just enjoy the scenery. The race info told people to get there by 7.45, which seemed early seeing as the race number were posted out and the race didn’t begin until 9.30. They also said if you arrived after 8.50 you would have to use the overflow car park, 1km from the start, which I thought sounded fine (and sort of contradicted the advice of getting there so early). I live around 15 mins from the start and wasn’t planning on using the bag drop or the toilets, so leaving at about 8.20 am seemed to me like I had left plenty of time. But no, a mile from the exit of the motorway I joined the queue of traffic, and it was just barely moving. It took me 50 minutes to do that final mile- I finally parked at 9.25, to find out that it wasn’t a km, but a mile away (and according to google maps, more like 1.3 miles). I ran most of the way, and a lot of it was uphill- not a good start. At least I hadn’t planned to use the bag drop (it told you not to, and said keep everything in your car, but there would be an “informal” bag drop, whatever that means- do they say “hey” instead of “hello?”) but I did have to put my timer chip on my trainers as I hadn’t decided the night before which shoes to wear.

As I got to the top of the hill, the race started with the speedy runners haring towards me (and all the people watching). There seemed to be a lot of runners so I managed to run around to the back (nearly tripping on a low fence) and put my chip on my laces and tried to take some deep breaths. A stressful start! Some people didn’t even begin until nearly 10am so I wasn’t the last by a long shot.

So, onto the race. I had heard that it was hilly, but I don’t really know the roads around there at all. It was really tough. The first 6 miles went by OK- I was keeping a fairly steady pace and although I stopped to take a few photos, I didn’t feel I needed to.

One sign said “enjoy the downhill”- not easy when you know you have to run up it later on… The “enjoy the music” sign was just before a guy playing a steel pan brilliantly which cheered me up no end.

The course started in the grounds of the house, and after 1.7 miles (or according to the announcer, “2 miles on the dot”) we ran back through the finish line before heading out into the surrounding country lanes.

We then had a long bit of out and back- you turned at 5.5 miles so I had a long time to watch for faster runners on the other side of the road. At around 6 miles I started to get a sore leg- this happened to me at the Bright10 in 2016- it felt a bit like my leg was twisting around. After that happened I kept having to stop and walk and stretch it out. I am not sure what causes it- I think perhaps running on a sloping road where one leg is constantly higher than the other.

The hills were constant too- it felt like you were only ever going up or down, and a lot of it was fairly steep so the downhills were just as tough on the quads. I really struggled to keep going at times. I realised that I had left my clif blocks in my car (argh- what use are they there???), and at the final water station I took a bottle with me. I also spent a long time feeling grumpy as I saw all the discarded bottles and caps by the sides of the roads and in the bushes and woods- I really don’t like bottles anyway because plastic is just so bad for the environment (and it wastes so much water) but if they must have them, why not provide a bin??? I made sure I took little sips as my throat was sore from the cold air. Even the 10 mile point with just a parkrun to go felt like the end would just never be in sight. I ended up messaging Andy at one point while I stretched out my leg as I was really struggling to keep going. From my fastest mile of 9.37 (mile 5) I slowed to 13.08 for mile 10.  With around 2 miles to go I started to see a few finishers with their medals, and could hear the announcer. At one point I could hear a band playing “Live Forever” by Oasis (there was a little stage at the finish area), but they didn’t seem to be playing all of the time.

As you might be able to see on the Strava image above, the final mile was uphill (I’d already run it once on the run from the car park)- this was so tough and demoralising. The path hadn’t been roped off so I had to weave in and out of the people who had finished, wearing their medals, on my way to the top.

When I finally finished the medal was handed to me, I was given a banana and a carrier bag, and then had to wander through and collect the items- a medium t-shirt because they had run out of small (grr), a little bottle of water and a clif bar.  I sat on a little fence for a bit and ate the banana and just tried to summon up the energy to walk again.

It was a  really cold day (2 degrees when I left the car) and my hoodie was in the car-  I had worn a long sleeved top but of course that was sweaty and not doing much to keep me warm. I put the t-shirt on and then saw lots of people with hot drink cups, so I found a little van selling hot chocolate and got myself  a gingerbread one (although that seemed to mean it came with a mini gingerbread biscuit?- I thought it would be spiced hot chocolate). I saw a few runners from the club and chatted to them briefly (one of them managed to run it in under 2 hours!) but I was getting so cold and had a long walk back to the car.

I also took one to show how much I hated it but Andy has said I really should use the happy photo instead- happy to have finished!

Then there was more chaos as no-one was manning the car park (which was basically a field anyway), so I think I finally got home at around 1pm. I did some yoga stretches and then had a lovely hot shower while Andy warmed up some cinnamon rolls in the oven and made a big pot of tea- then I started to feel a bit more human as I slowly warmed up.

So- the pros of the run:

Close to home

Lovely scenery

Great marshals (they had tambourines, one guy was blowing through a traffic cone like a trumpet, some had music playing)

Cool medal (it has cartoons of Liam Gallagher and someone else as Oasis played Knebworth before)

Not too expensive (£32- not the cheapest but you get a technical t-shirt although also see below)

Free photos- they have all been uploaded to facebook and emailed out and people can do with them what they like

Cons:

Hilly route

Bad organisation with parking- there was no need for the gridlock at the end

Not enough small t-shirt sizes

Rubbish (or non-existent) goodie bag

No foil blanket- considering it was such a cold day I thought it was a poor oversight

No bins for the water bottles en route

Did I mention the hills?

So, I won’t be doing it again!  But I think that with a few tweaks it could be a really good event- things like the photos were a nice (unexpected) touch.

I didn’t do much for the rest of the day- we had a lovely baked sweet potato for lunch and then went to see Only The Brave in the cinema (which I thought was very good- based on a true story of a fire crew who tackle wild fires). I woke up on Monday with a really sore throat (and super stiff legs) so I do wonder if I struggled more if I am coming down with something.

Are there races that you have said “never again” about? The “Great” runs are on my list.

 

A parkrun in the rain, getting cold and finally using our fire!

On Saturday I met Dad at Ellenbrook for parkrun. It was pretty miserable weather- only about 5 degrees and raining, so I sat in the car for a bit before finally braving it. Dad had driven (he often cycles but not surprisingly didn’t fancy it)- I was heading to theirs for breakfast after, so I told him not to wait but we ended up running together. I’d worn a visor to try and keep my glasses dry, but the rain was too hard. I didn’t even spot my friend Elaine (she was marshaling) until we called out “thanks” and she said “hello”- I recognised her voice but couldn’t see properly!

Flying feet! It was slippery and very muddy in places, although the worst part (the “water feature”- a muddy track that is under water for a good 10 metres) has been filled with sand so it wasn’t so bad any more. Also, the cows were standing up. I thought cows sat down in the rain? Or is it when it is about to rain??  I had worn gloves and took them off after around a mile (my hands tend to warm up fairly quickly)- I did offer them to Dad as he had forgotten his and he really feels the cold, but apparently he wasn’t keen on wearing the flouro pink ones!

Anyway, an enjoyable run, finishing in 27.44 and 1st in my age cat! That doesn’t normally happen (I think the rest of the people stayed at home in the dry!).

Our lovely tree is still so colourful- not tan lines but mud lines! And watching the rain from my car…

I’d packed jogging bottoms and a jumper, so after driving to my parents I changed- I wished I had packed a proper change of clothes though as then I could have had a shower- not sure why I didn’t. I had to spend ages wiping the mud off my legs- I thought I just had some splashes but actually it was a proper coating! We then had breakfast (pancakes of course)- my sister came around with her husband and baby, my brother was there, and Andy joined us later, so it was lovely to all catch up.

Mum lent me these slippers (from one of their hotels in China) so at least my feet were warm!

In the afternoon we walked into town and I made some caramel shortbread for Sunday. Then after dinner we went to the cinema to see The Florida Project, which was really good. It’s set in the shadow of Disney World, following a child and her friends- they all live in motels and so it does show the struggle that the parents go through, but the children were brilliant and it was very uplifting at times too.

On Sunday I didn’t set an alarm and didn’t even wake up until 8.45! Crazy! I headed on a run- I ended up doing 10 miles. I’d worn a top and jacket, thinking I’d take the jacket off after a bit and tie it around my waist, but in fact every time I considered it, the wind would blow more and make me feel chilly, so I kept it on the whole time.

This is my “I wish I had worn a buff” face- my skin gets so sore and it looked like I had sunburn when I got home as the skin on my neck and chest was so red and itchy.

After a shower it was time for breakfast- on Friday I had been into town (for a massage) and so I had of course had to go to Gail’s (an amazing bakery). I usually go for the chocolate almond croissants, but they had a sour cherry and pistachio croissant so I got one of each (plus a scone for another time).

I warmed them in the oven while I made the tea (Bluebird Bonfire Toffee tea) and then we had half of each. Mmmm, so good.

We then walked the long way to town (about 3 miles) and I had this tasty smoothie when I got home to give me a bit of a boost to power through some work.

We had tea at Andy’s parents and then when we got home, it was finally time to use the log burner! We had it fitted in the summer but of course we needed to wait for a cold day to actually use it.

It was so cosy, and after getting so cold at parkrun, on my run and on the walks to town it was lovely to relax and feel warm- the perfect end to the weekend.

Do you have a different breakfast at the weekends? I’ll happily have porridge every week day in the winter and muesli in the summer, but I will often have something different at the weekend to make it more of an occasion and a bit more relaxed. Are you wearing gloves on your runs now?

Brighton and Hove parkrun

I’ve done a couple of the parkruns in Brighton before (Hove prom twice, and Preston Park once). Andy (who is turning without being asked into my parkrun tourist planner- he found the hotel near Bushy, and that Andover parkrun was close to our hotel) noticed that Brighton and Hove parkrun is very close to Hove station, so we booked a hotel by Brighton station so it would be easy to get to.

We arrived on Friday night and to save me the stress of the ticket machine in the morning (honestly, why do small things like this make me so stressed? I usually prefer to go to a person because then I know it’s the right ticket…), I bought my tickets the night before (there was an option for “travel tomorrow”), so all I had to do in the morning was get dressed and walk around the corner to the train. I could have run there as it was only a couple of miles, but as we were only there for the day I didn’t want to get back too late. It was £2.80 return so not too bad (I have paid that sort of thing for parking at a parkrun in some places).

To be extra helpful (or because he knows I am not good at travel, who knows…) Andy had sent me a screen shot of the journey times to and from Hove station- I like to be there early so I got the 8.23 train which arrived in Hove at 8.26- nice and short.

Luckily I left the time because for some reason, even though I had looked at a map, I thought that the parkrun would be closer to the sea than the station, so I knew that as the sea was on my left, I had to head downhill (or left). I had maps out on my phone with the pin in the centre of the park, and I couldn’t work out why I was getting further away. After realising I was going the wrong way, I headed back up the hill to the station, but then the map wouldn’t spin around so left on the map was right in real life so I got confused again. It turned out that there was a pedestrian bridge over the railway tracks, and once I had done that, it was an easy run up the hill to the end of the road, left at the end and the park was in sight.

It was a bit damp, but the forecast rain hadn’t materialised yet. I could see a bunch of high viz people in the centre, so I headed over. It happened to be their 10th anniversary, so some people were dressed up. The RD called out for any new runners to head over to “the red vicar”- I think he was dressed as a cardinal? Anyway, the briefing was amusing (he checked we had our barcodes, then that we had the fiver for him….)- and then it was time for the run briefing. Now, usually everyone listens carefully during this, and I feel that not only is it polite to do so, but imperative, because sometimes there are changes to the course or safety information to share.  There were a lot of people there (461 runners), but I could not hear a word, so many people were talking. I was quite annoyed and found it really rude. The team give up their time so that people can enjoy a free and timed 5k, so the least you can do it be quiet for a few minutes during the briefing.  There were pacers and they waved their little flag things about- I was near the 30 minute one at the start (but again you couldn’t hear at all).

Once we started it was enjoyable- it sounds complicated but you start a little bit before the finish, doing one small lap and then two big laps. There is a little incline on each lap, but nothing too steep and then you have a nice long downhill at the end of each lap too.  I try to make a point of thanking each marshal as I run past- I really appreciate them giving up their time to marshal, and I know that when I have marshaled it is lovely having the runners show their appreciation. One of the things I love about parkrun is hearing the call of “thank you marshal” echoing through the park. But I did not hear a single thank you from anyone else. Do people not do that at every parkrun?

There were two ladies talking loudly at the start, and on the second lap I caught up with them- they were talking about a friend of theirs who does Good Gym, and one of them said “I’m too selfish to give up my time to dig up a garden” and I did think to myself “and too selfish to listen to the run briefing”…

Anyway, I enjoyed the run and I think on the first little lap I caught up with the 30 min pacer, and then on the second lap I caught up with the next one (I can’t remember the number though- 29 or 28 mins possibly). I managed to push the pace on the final lap, doing a nice negative split with 27.43 (9.13, 8.37, 8.33 and 7.21 for the little bit- not the easiest to do on not a flat course).  The best thing about lapped courses is that you get top 3 personal records on all the strava segments!

It had started to rain quite heavily on the final lap, so I didn’t hang around at all- I took a few photos on my run back to the station. I was about to miss a train, but it was delayed by a few minutes so I still managed to catch it. By 10 o’clock I was sat in Cafe Coho- there was a lovely hot cup of Earl grey tea waiting for me, and the pancakes weren’t far behind!

So another enjoyable Brighton parkrun (Bevendean Down parkrun is the one yet to visit, although that is a bit out of town so I am not sure I’d manage it without a car). I think probably Hove Prom is the easiest one for me to visit, but when it’s super windy it is nicer to head inland.

Have you collected any parkrun “sets?” Do you find train travel a bit stressful? I enjoy it once I am on the train, and I don’t mind if there are frequent trains so if I miss one it’s fine, but buying the correct ticket and getting to the right platform adds to the pressure a bit. Do people thank the marshals as they run past at your local parkruns?  Maybe it was too cold and rainy…

A quick recap and Brighton round 2!

Last week I was home too late on Tuesday to make it out to the club run in time, so I had a run on my own- usually this would be fine (and I wore my light for the first time- which meant getting ready took ages as I could not remember which way around the straps went)- but it was also Halloween so I was basically dodging kids (and teenagers who were way too old) all dressed up for most of the run – it made it hard work! There were so many houses decorated too- with that fake spider web stuff and the do not cross crime scene tape. I’m not a Halloween fan, but at least the trick or treaters seem to only go to the decorated houses now which seems better.

Happy once I had finally worked out how to put it on!

Yoga was cancelled for the first week back, and so I took the opportunity to head into town after work to pick up a free drink from Costa (not my coffee shop of choice, but the Three mobile app had another freebie so not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth I went for it). It seems that all the shops had had a Christmas explosion (and some houses too-why????- I love Christmas but just for December please!).

On Thursday I had a nice 4 mile run, and then on Friday evening we got the train down to Brighton. We went a few weeks ago for the 10 mile race, but the restaurant we had booked had a power cut, so we decided to go down again.

As we were staying right by the station, on Saturday morning I got the train across to Hove, to run Brighton and Hove parkrun.

I’ll do a separate post about that as it was a new-to-me course. On the train on the way back I messaged Andy, who was in Cafe Coho, so he ordered breakfast. By the time I sat down the cup of tea was already there, and it didn’t take long for the pancakes to arrive.

Their pancakes are so good- they come with Greek yoghurt, berries and honey.  After going back to the hotel for a shower, we had a lovely walk along the seafront towards Hove. It was a bit rainy (it had rained hard on the final lap of the parkrun course) but luckily that didn’t last too long.

There were some huge waves and dramatic clouds (and some people on the beaches getting very close to the waves…). We wandered back to town and around the shops for a bit, and of course had to stop and get some cake. The place we had been to a few times (Catwalk cakes) has closed, so we found another cafe (there is no shortage  of cafes- you just need to find one with a seat!), and enjoyed sharing a slice of carrot cake.

After more of a walk (the sun sets so early now- that top right picture was at around 5pm) we headed to Food for Friends- thankfully no power cut this time!

After dinner we got the train back home, catching up on the film podcast and watching lots of fireworks.

On Sunday I had a short-ish run (for a Sunday- 6 miles) in the most beautiful autumnal weather.

We then headed into St Albans for breakfast, as we had to be there later for a family baptism, and wandered around the park (we even found the house that was on Grand Designs recently).

After the baptism, we were off to the cinema to see Murder on the Orient Express. I had heard some people say it wasn’t that great, but I really enjoyed  it. I’d not read the book so I didn’t know what happened, so maybe if you were comparing it to the book you might feel like some bits were missed out or different (I have no idea), but it was good fun I though. We were sat in front of some people that talked ALL THE WAY THROUGH! I kept turning around to try and work out who it was so I could shush them, but it was hard to see in the dark. It was so annoying though! I think that the film may attract a type of audience that does not visit the cinema that often…

This week has gone by in a flash- I missed the club run on Tuesday as I had an awful headache. I’d taken painkillers but after a 2 hour meeting and driving home it still hadn’t gone, so a short walk in the fresh air had to suffice. Yoga was back on Wednesday (hooray!)- we did a lot of work on hips including some partner squats- I need to remember these things for when I get back from a run as I do try to do some of them as stretches now. On Thursday I picked Mum and Dad up from Heathrow as they had been in China. I was really not looking forward to the M25 at rush hour, or navigating around the airport, so I was very pleased with myself when I managed it (I was telling myself “you are a thirty-something year old person, you should be able to drive to an airport…” but these things make me anxious still). Anyway it was lovely to find out how their holiday had been.

And here we are at Friday!  I don’t think I’ve been up to date with this blog since the summer!

Any plans for the weekend? Are people near you going Halloween crazy? Or have you seen any Christmas decorations? Which towns/places do you like to visit over and over?

A long run, and afternoon tea to recover!

After going to Castle Park parkrun last Saturday (and all the petrol panic that happened after) it was fairly late by the time I’d got home and showered. I needed to pop over to my brother’s and collect some plants (Mum had planted us some winter pansies in her greenhouse and they needed to be planted out), so I drove over there and had a little catch up with him. By the time I got home, it was time for lunch- soup and toasted sourdough.

We then had a long walk (about 4 miles) through town and via a launderette as we wanted to wash the winter duvet before putting it back on (although the cost of having it cleaned is more than a new one actually costs…). After some work in the garden (more leaf sweeping, and planting out the pansies) I did a bit of work at home and was treated to a gorgeous pink sky at sunset.

On Sunday I was up early (thanks to the clocks changing) as I needed to fit in a long run and we had cinema tickets booked for midday. I was going to go for 11, as I had a week off long runs the previous weekend, and didn’t know if I would manage one next weekend- I took some Clif shot blocks with me in case I needed a boost- I had a few after about 10 miles in the end as I felt a bit tired. It was a bit of a loopy run, going out and back on myself a bit as I kept an eye on the miles (and avoided the woods and the park where I last got bothered by dogs…)- in the end when I got home it was at around 11.5 miles so I ran around the block to make it up to 12- my longest run for this half marathon I think.

Once home it was time for a speedy shower and breakfast in front of some Bake Off (and a big cup of tea) before heading to see Breathe.

The film was brilliant (it tells the true story of a guy who contracted polio, and shows his battle to be able to live as full a life as possible instead of being confined to a hospital)- it was very emotional and the people in with us were not quiet- very loud sobbing at times! I took a cereal bar with me and got a drink to take in as I knew I would be hungry otherwise.

Then I was off for afternoon tea- a year or so ago I’d been to a local place (Brocket Hall) with some friends- the food was good (apart from my poor friend who had ordered gluten free food) but the service was terrible, so we had vouchers to go back there.

It was lovely to catch up with everyone (we all started teaching in the same school, but now most of them have moved to other schools so we don’t see each other as regularly) and the food was good, however the service was still poor (plus, if we didn’t have vouchers we would have had to pay in advance which is not very common and not that appealing)- I don’t think we’ll be back!

We did end up with a lot of food to take home though- the lemon tart and Battenberg cakes were particularly delicious!

I was a bit worried that after sitting down in the cinema my legs would be sore, but I was actually OK. I had worn my calf sleeves to the cinema (but not to afternoon tea as they showed through my tights!) and that helped a lot I think. I won’t be racing the half, but at least I know I will be OK at doing that many miles in one go, as I think the last time for me was April.

Do you like afternoon tea? I find it more relaxing than a meal out as it feels like you can take your time.